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Father suing PSC over daughter’s 2005 death

By REBECCA STEFFAN, Enterprise Staff Writer

Posted on: Wednesday, June 6, 2007

SARANAC LAKE — After five alcohol-related deaths in the past three school years at Paul Smith’s College, one father is suing the school for what he says was the wrongful death of his daughter in 2005.

In early February 2005, Stephen Guest’s daughter Kristine left Quinnipiac University in southern Connecticut with a few friends bound for Paul Smith’s College. After a one-night stop in Boston, the group arrived at the remote and snow-covered Paul Smith’s campus. During a bonfire Feb. 5 that lasted into the early hours of the next morning, 20-year-old Kristine accepted a snowmobile ride from 20-year-old Joshua Rau, a friend of her roommate in college.

The two were found not long after Rau’s 1997 Yamaha snowmobile crashed into Peter’s Rock on Lower St. Regis Lake, on the opposite shore from the campus, killing both.

Blood alcohol analysis found that Rau had a BAC of 0.14 percent.

“This is a father’s bias, but I feel I’m totally justified in saying it’s a safe bet Kristine was confronted with a situation she did not expect,” Stephen Guest said. He said he feels campus security and other chaperones did not take the necessary precautions in ensuring student safety at the bonfire the night his daughter died. As a result, he is suing Paul Smith’s College for the wrongful death of his daughter.

“The prime motivation is that my wife and I don’t want to get five to 10 years away from when we lost Kristine and look back and feel like we didn’t do everything possible to make some positive change come from Kristine’s sad example,” Guest said. “That’s the driving force.”

Guest added that he feels campuses need to be more in-tune with the safety of students.

“It’s not a student problem because students are going to take it as far as they can; it’s an adult problem,” he said.

Paul Smith’s College’s attorney in the case, Brian Breedlove of Pennock, Breedlove & Noll in Clifton Park, commented briefly on the case but did not elaborate as litigation is continuing.

“He is mistaken in his assessment of the facts because he is blinded by his grief,” Breedlove said. He added that he feels the facts of the case will “demonstrate that I am correct about that in the end.

“It is an unfortunate tragedy.”

In May, two PSC students from Vermont drowned when their canoes capsized while a six-member boating party was paddling back from Peter’s Rock. Alcohol was a contributing factor in their deaths, state police investigators determined. In 2005, shortly before the snowmobile accident, a PSC student died in a crash attributed to drunk driving.
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In loving Memory of Kristine Guest