The first car, an Audi, on loan from a local car dealership because the driver’s own vehicle was in the shop for repairs, was driven by a family man, John Geise, who was returning from his primary job as a butler at the Foxwoods casino. His secondary employer was Prudential Pequot Properties. In an extension of kindness and generosity, Mr. Geise was sharing his ride home with a co-worker, another family man, Wayne Lecardo. Both gentlemen had finished their shifts at the casino around 1:15 AM and were on their way home. Both were sober.
The second car, an Oldsmobile Alero, was driven by sixteen-year-old Cameron Lee, by all accounts an amiable kid who was well known and well liked at the local high school. Unfortunately, being a “great kid” doesn’t necessarily mean you make great decisions, and young Mr. Lee made some doozies in the last few hours of his life:
Mistake #1: underage drinking
On the night of the accident, a few doors down from the Lee home, a seventeen-year-old boy hosted a party for 30-40 of his closest friends from the local high school, unbeknownst to his parents who were absent at the time. According to the teenage attendees, no alcohol was served at this gathering and, if there was, no one saw Cameron Lee imbibe. I guess that explains why Mr. Lee had a blood alcohol level of 0.12, six times the legal limit for a sixteen-year-old kid. By the way, the legal drinking age in Connecticut is twenty-one.
Mistake #2: driving outside the boundaries of his driver’s license
In November 2006, just two months before the accident, Cameron Lee obtained his driver’s license. In Connecticut, a sixteen-year-old driver cannot drive after midnight and cannot take passengers in his car for the first six months, parents and family excepted. The accident occurred at 1:38 am, well beyond the midnight limit. Mr. Lee also had a passenger in the car, as I mentioned previously, another teenager, who miraculously survived the collision with nothing more than an injured ankle (and a lot of unpleasant memories, I’m sure).
Mistake #3: driving under the influence
The police report states that at 12:30 am, the Oldsmobile Alero driven by Cameron Lee was still parked in the driveway of the Lee home. The accident occurred at 1:38 am. The conclusion: sometime between those hours, Mr. Lee took the automobile for a drive. Given the blood alcohol level of the teenager, the assumption is that he left the party given by his friend, returned home, and made the decision to drive to another location, fully aware that he had consumed alcohol. Being sixteen, Cameron Lee probably didn’t want to admit that he was “drunk enough” to impair his responses behind the wheel of a car, but not necessarily “drunk enough” to exhibit obvious outward physical signs of drunkenness; thus, duping him into thinking he was still equipped to take a short drive to the local McDonalds. Given the current state requirements for driver’s education, it is unlikely that Cameron Lee had no understanding of the relationship between drinking and driving as instruction in that subject is mandatory before the issuance of a motor vehicle license (at least in Connecticut); hence, my hesitancy to say something like “he was just a kid and didn’t understand what he was doing.”
Mistake #4: speeding
The computer module from the Lee Oldsmobile was analyzed as part of the accident investigation. It indicated that the car was traveling at 101 mph five seconds before impact; one second before impact, the auto was moving at 89 mph. Apparently, Cameron Lee was doing what all young men dream of doing at some point in their lives --- taking a car to the outer limits of the speedometer. Perhaps he should have reserved that effort for a racetrack and not a dark road in New London County. The Audi he hit was so damaged by the impact of the collision (and the resulting fire) that any accurate record of speed for the vehicle was impossible to obtain.
Mistake #5: driving recklessly during icy road conditions
The early morning hours of January 28, 2007, were quite chilly, meaning that black ice, especially on bridges, was an imminent danger. Not surprising, the accident in question occurred on a freeway overpass. A more experienced driver would have recognized that attempting to control a car at speeds near 90-100 mph on a road that might have treacherous conditions would be well nigh impossible. Sadly, Cameron Lee was not an experienced driver. He was a driver who, if fortunate, had driven in winter conditions while practicing with his driver’s permit; yet, southern Connecticut hasn’t yielded much in the way of difficult driving conditions the past few years due to mild winter weather. Hence, the possibility that Mr. Lee had little skill in handling unexpected poor weather road conditions.
So, five mistakes and three fatalities, not the kind of sum residents wants to count, regardless of the age of the victims. It is a sad official outcome to an even sadder tragedy that, I daresay, has changed my community forever. But worst of all, quoting from a recent article in The Day newspaper:
…Police wrapped up their…investigation into the accident by charging the youth who hosted the party. Police captain Steven Smith said police do not expect to charge anyone else in the case.That puts the value of each life taken in this tragedy at ~$48.67, if we are counting dollars. I think I would rather count mistakes.
The youth, whom police did not identify because state law bars the release of names of minors charged with all but the most serious crimes, received an infraction…for permitting a minor to possess liquor. The charge is part of a 2006 law that makes it illegal to knowingly permit a minor to possess alcohol in a home or on private property. Police declined to say what Lee’s blood alcohol level was at the time of the crash. [That information was released in a later article.]
Police said the youth, whom they would not identify as a boy or girl, can pay a $146 fine or appeal the infraction in court.
For two additional articles about this situation, click here and here.