Kristine's Last Weekend-A
summary of how she came to visit Paul's Smith's College and what happened after
Individuals & places
- Paul Smith College-Located 45 minutes west of Lake
Placid in up-state New York
- Quinnipiac University-located in southern Connecticut
- Simmons College and Northeastern University-Located
within one mile of each other in and area within Boston where many
educational institutions are located
- Kristine Guest-a junior at Quinnipiac University-from
West Hartford, CT
- Amanda- a junior at Quinnipiac University-from Emmaus,
PA, Kristine’s roommate beginning in the Fall 2005 semester
- Mary-- a sophomore at Quinnipiac University-from
- Lindsey-- a junior at Northeastern University-from
- Joshua Rau- a junior at Paul Smith College-from
- Amanda, Lindsey and Joshua were close friends in high
- Mary knew the other PA individuals in middle school,
but lost touch in high school, became friends with Amanda at Quinnipiac
- Michael R-a student RA at Paul Smith College
- Richard S-a student RA at Paul Smith College
- JS--a Safety Officer at Paul Smith College
- Toni Marra-Director of Resident Life at Paul Smith
College, who, among other duties, oversees student RA’s and directs Safety
Officers in their reactions to breaches of the student conduct code
- Christopher Hansen--a student at Paul Smith College
Summary of main occurrences:
- On January 29, 2005, Stephen Welch, a 19 year-old Paul
Smith College student, died in a truck accident near the Paul Smith campus.
Alcohol level was reported to be a prime cause of the accident.
- On Friday night, February 5, 2005, the Toni Marra and
two Safety Officers witnessed a bonfire party on the lake adjoining the
campus. A truck was on the lake ice doing donuts. The State
Police were called and they scanned the lake. However, the party
dispersed and the bonfire was extinguished prior to the State Police
- After the State Police left campus on Friday night, an
intoxicated student drove his truck erratically onto a campus parking lot.
Toni Marra declined to call the State Police and reacted by taking the
student's keys and escorting him to his dorm. This was a lost
opportunity to send a message to all that driving under the influence is
dangerous and will not be tolerated.
- During the first week of February, 2005, Amanda and
Lindsey were making arrangements with Joshua to travel to Paul Smith College
to celebrate his 20 birthday on Saturday, February 5. Mary was included in
the plans for the trip.
- Kristine was invited, and decided to go on Friday, the
day of departure from Quinnipiac.
- With directions from Lindsey and Amanda, Joshua
acquired the alcohol that the girls preferred with the assistance of a 22
year old Paul Smith student.
- At 3:00 on Friday afternoon, Amanda, Kristine and Mary
left Quinnipiac to drive in Amanda’s car to Boston.
- They arrived in Boston after 5PM where they met
Lindsey at Northeastern.
- Additionally, Kristine met three former classmates
from Simmons College, where Kristine attended in her freshman year. The
group had dinner a restaurant near the colleges. This stop was likely
a major attraction for Kristine to make the trip.
- After spending the night at Northeastern, the four
traveled to Paul Smith College, starting at 10:30AM and arriving
approximately 4:30 PM.
- After meeting Joshua and his friends at Paul Smith,
the group went to a winter carnival in near-by Saranac Lake.
- The group returned to Paul Smith College where at 9:00
PM they began celebrating Joshua’s 20th birthday in his dorm
room. A drinking game was said to be a central activity at this state
of the celebration.
- During Saturday afternoon, other students at Paul
Smith College prepared for a recurring weekend party primarily involving
Paul Smith students.
- The campus borders Lower St. Regis Lake, on which
the party occurs when the lake is sufficiently frozen, which is most of
- The students secure wood for a bonfire from Paul
Smith's Forestry Cabin and build the fire approximately 200 feet from
campus and in plain view from the campus grounds. The bon fire is the
focal point of the parties.
- Also recurring at the party, students rode
snowmobiles on the ice through the night. That night, there were
said to be anywhere from 5 to 20 snowmobiles on the ice. Likely,
the number was between 8 and 15.
- All activity was within full view of the campus,
which was a short walk from the bonfire.
- That semester, the party had occurred the previous two
weekends on a smaller scale. Between 80 and 100 students were
attending the party that night.
- Joshua and his friends went to the bon fire at
approximately 10:30. The girls and he were at the bon fire
intermittently from that time to 3:00AM.
- During their time on the ice, Mary and Lindsey were
rode on the snowmobiles frequently. Joshua and Amanda likely took
rides, but to what extent is uncertain. According to the resultant
police report and backup statement, Kristine did not accept a ride during
- Since Paul Smith College is an undergraduate school,
most students are under the legal drinking age. That largely underage
students attended the party is evidenced by the age of those students
providing statements to the State Police.
- Shortly before midnight, two students crashed their
snowmobile into trees at the edge of the Lake. No injuries resulted
from this crash.
- At approximately 12:30, Toni Marra and JS
walked to the bon fire to investigate the report of a possible injury from
this snowmobile crash.
- Upon learning that no one was hurt, they stated
- Ms. Marra stated that she told the group that
the activities must stop and she left the scene with the
understanding that did happen and went to sleep at 2:45AM believing
the activities had stop using the lack of noise from the snowmobiles
as her confirmation.
- Safety Officer JS gave a much different
account of the message given to the students. He stated that
he was instructed not to intercede for fear of a riot and that the
message was far from orders to cease the activities. He stated
that he urged Ms. Marra to contact the State Police several times,
but she overruled his judgment. Upon leaving the lake, Officer
JS stated that he still felt that a dangerous situation existed.
- Officer JS’s account was similar to that of
three students, including Richard S and Michael R, two student RAs.
- Michael R walked to the bon fire, passing Toni Marra
and JS as they returned from the scene. R witnessed unabated
activity directly after the two left the scene of the party providing
evidence that their presence had no effect on activity around the bon fire.
- From student accounts, the snowmobile activity
diminished or stopped at approximately 2:30 to 3:00AM based upon the
judgment of various students that the mist on the ice was creating unsafe
conditions. While the snowmobile activity diminished after this
period, the bon fire and party continued throughout the night at a lower
- Joshua and his group returned to his dorm at
approximately 3:00AM to talk, eat left over pizza and get some sleep.
Rather than sleeping, the group decided to go back on the ice at 4:30 to
view the sunrise. From the police report, there were approximately
eight other students still at the bon fire and apparently 3 to 4 snowmobiles
- On the ice, Joshua approached Christopher Hansen to
borrow Christopher’s snowmobile. Christopher judged Joshua to be sober
at that time and provided the vehicle.
- Joshua first gave rides to Amanda and Lindsey.
Mary took a ride on another snowmobile. Joshua circled the bon fire
when giving the rides to Amanda and Mary, keeping an apparently safe course.
- Finally, Joshua gave Kristine a ride that deviated
from the previous safe course. Lindsey guessed that since this was
Kristine’s first ride, Joshua wanted to show her a little extra.
- Joshua hit a peninsula that was hidden by mist
traveling an estimated 50 miles per hour. Both Joshua and
Kristine died instantly.
- Joshua’s blood alcohol level was .113, well above the
legal driving limit. From student statements, Joshua had turned into
quite a drinker at college and may have built a tolerance to where although
earlier in the evening he has obviously intoxicated, at 4:30AM his alcohol
level reduced to the level where intoxication was not obvious, as evidenced
by Christopher Hansen’s statement.
- Kristine’s blood/alcohol level was determined to be
negligible evidencing that she had little if anything to drink.
The above sequence of events was
derived from conversations from Kristine’s friends and the report prepared by
the New York State Police. All details related to the events at Paul Smith
College, including the actions and conditions of individuals, including
Kristine, are verifiable in the police report and accompanying statements by
individuals. All were primarily confirmed by a reporter for the
PressRepublican in Plattsburgh, New York, in an article published February
2, 2006. The reporter provided the President of Paul Smith College the
opportunity to clarify any misunderstanding, but instead basically confirmed the
more significant facts.
Below, is my commentary:
On Saturday night, Kristine found herself in situation that she did not
anticipate. She kept her involvement under control by avoiding
excessive drinking and repeated snowmobile riding and just blended into the
group. As stated by a Police Inspector, “Kristine was the least
irresponsible of the group”. Unfortunately, apparent peer pressure led
to her taking that fatal ride. Appropriate intervention by college
officials when they and the opportunity would surely have prevented her
The law's view of the college's responsibility for student
On December 18, 2007,
the US District Court ruled to grant Paul Smith's College's summary motion to
dismiss the case. In its decision, the Court summarized the facts very much as
detailed above. However, the Court concluded that the college did not have
a duty to act.
The District Court's
ruling is a disconcerting example of how the civil law is stacked against
students at the cost of student safety. The Court's decision includes the
Court's summary of the facts
which conforms with the facts stated here and in other pages in this
site. Significant in the Court's fact
summary are the
of Paul Smith's College's personnel. Additionally, the decision
contains strong language concerning
College's failure to appropriately intervene upon witnessing a dangerous
situation and commentary about the
concerning campus drinking.
In the District
Court’s decision, four points are evident: 1) College personnel witnessed
dangerous situation involving scores of students, 2) College personnel
decided to not take effective steps to attempt to halt the dangerous
situation, 3) two students eventually died from the dangerous activities which
were foreseeable at the time the College had the opportunity to effectively
intervene, 4) the facts, if determined true at trial, demonstrated to the
District Court that the College was ineffective overall in enforcing the Student
Code of Conduct by stating in
footnote 8: “The
court does not suggest that the College's alleged laissez-faire attitude towards
underage and/or binge drinking--if true--was appropriate or well-advised.”
these statements regarding Paul Smith College's indifference to student safety
that fatal night and overall, the archaic reading of a college's legal
obligation for student safety by the District Court led the Court to find for
As much as
this decision is disturbing to Kristine's family, all parents of college
students attending New York colleges should be equally disturbed. The
judgment effectively relieves New York colleges of the responsibility to address
dangerous and reckless activities of students when such activities occur
directly in their view.
Read the full decision
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