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Binge Drinking Turning Deadly

In early September, a candlelight vigil was held for 19-year-old Samantha Spady. The high school homecoming queen and Colorado State University freshman had gone on a binge - consuming an estimated 30-40 drinks.

And, as Rick Sallinger of KCNC-TV in Denver reported for The Early Show, Spady was found dead on the floor of a fraternity house, where friends had left her to sleep.

Just 12 days later, not far away at the University of Colorado, another body was found at another frat house.

The call to 911 was chilling: "We got a guy is passed out. He drank way too much and we found him this morning."

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This time, says Sallinger, it was 18-year-old Gordie Bailey who died after drinking massive amounts of alcohol in a hazing ritual.

Bailey's family members blame the university atmosphere, and the fraternity. "How come they put six bottles of liquor and six bottles of wine in front of them to drink in half-an-hour before they go down to a fraternity party with kegs of beer?" asks Michael Lanahan, Bailey's stepfather. "It just doesn't square with us."

Bailey's mother, Leslie Lanahan says, "Had we known what could have happened, we could have maybe helped him and talked to him about this."

In the past few weeks alone, binge drinking deaths have been reported on campuses in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Virginia.

Many campuses around the country are cracking down on fraternities. Some are banning the sale of alcoholic beverages at football games. Or fighting to limit the number of liquor licenses granted to businesses near campuses.

What's more, reports Sallinger, many colleges are trying to teach students how to drink responsibly.

At the University of Colorado, all incoming freshmen have to take an alcohol awareness course. Gordie Bailey not only took it, he passed it with a 96% score. Not long after that, he drank himself to death.

If college administrators are hoping the recent deaths might at least shock students into reforming their drinking habits, that doesn't appear to be the case.

University of Colorado student Annie Turner says simply, "I feel bad for what happened, but every college student drinks. It's a part of college life."

And, Sallinger points out, students aren't shy about admitting their own drinking experiences. "I drink every day … and I am not going to deny that," says one. "There's a lot to fuel. I'm a big guy. It's going to take more than five drinks," another jokes.

At Colorado State University, an alcohol task force was formed in response to Samantha Spady's death.

Lt. Governor Jane Norton heads the panel: "We've seen two people die in this state and it looks from the partying going on at CSU that not much has changed. …It's pretty shocking to see that."

A few blocks away from where her task force was meeting, a bar was having its weekly promotion: four drinks for the price of one.

Student Lindsey Jones said, "I know my limits, and once I get to a certain point, I know I'm going to stop drinking. The toxicity report said that died had 30-40 drinks. That's a lot. I stop at 10 or 12."

Jessica Webster weighed in: "I think that's the attitude of most college students. …My brother and I would have those conversations, and he would just shrug it off. 'It's not going to happen to me. I'm careful.'"

But it did happen to Webster's 19-year-old brother Taylor, who died two years ago. After his funeral, Jessica and her mother Sally started an organization to educate kids about alcohol poisoning. They now speak to students throughout Colorado.

Jessica says the recent deaths are tough to take: "It just makes me frustrated that I feel I'm not getting the message through."

She recalls that even Taylor's death had little impact on the drinking her friends did. "It didn't affect them, at all! And, I have no idea, I cannot fathom how you could wake up, your friend could be dead and you (don't change your habits)."

Taylor's mother and Jessica say it's important for them to continue to speak out. "If we can keep one person from dying from alcohol poisoning, our efforts have not been in vain," vows Taylor's mother Sally Webster.

They want to reach binge drinkers early in the hope of educating them about the dangers of binge drinking before it's too late.

Sally says, "Every morning I wake up and I say, 'I love you, Taylor, and I wish you were here. I love you and I miss you.'"

And other parents grieve, and wonder how these types of things could happen.

Lanahan, Gordie Bailey's stepfather, insists "We can do better. All of us can do better to stop these tragedies."

And Leslie Lanahan, Gordie's mother adds, "There has to be something positive that comes out of this child's life."

Gordie Bailey's mother and stepfather have started a foundation to educate students about alcohol poisoning and hazing. They can be contacted at: The Gordie Foundation, P.O. Box 191889, Dallas TX, 75219

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