HUNTSVILLE, WALKER COUNTY After the deaths of three students in an alcohol-related accident in December of 2013, Sam Houston State University is looking for new solutions to keep students educated on the dangers of alcohol.
"Shock is probably the best way to describe it," said Eddie Gisemba. He coordinates the Acohol and Drug Abuse Initiative at Sam Houston State. He said that many students are shocked at the violent, alcohol-related deaths of Blanca Espinal, Eric Torres and Alfonso Mata. In the 9 years the program has existed, the three students killed in December are the first.
"For me, this is heartbreaking," Gisemba continued. He says many staff and faculty members are also heartbroken.
On December 14th, just before 5 a.m., 19-year-old Espinal flipped her vehicle into a building on campus, killing herself and two others in the car. Authorities say her blood alcohol content was almost three times the legal limit and traces of marijuana was found in her system. Torres and Mata were killed in the accident. A fourth passenger, Thomas Roling, was able to get out of the vehicle and wait for first responders.
"We are invested in these students. We dedicate our careers to these students. So, hearing something like this has happened is shocking to say the least," said Gisemba.
Each year, more than 1800 college aged students die from alcohol. Another 3.3 million get behind the wheel of a car after drinking. Most college students won't admit to it, but it's a behavior that happens on nearly every college campus in America. Flowers on the sidewalk remind students of the lives lost. For Gisemba, the rebuilding process means their looking for programs that will help students make right choices.
"One of the big things that we want to do is show students how important it is to be good bystanders, or to still be responsible or to seize the keys if their friend might be driving drunk," said Gisemba. He stresses that as good as the programs may be, there may be points in time when these programs aren't available. Gisemba said the goal is to have students exercise responsibility. Education and awareness, Gisemba says, could save future lives.
Sam Houston State is also relaunching the popular iDrive program. By partnering with local bars, designated drivers would get a wrist band and a free non-alcoholic drink.