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xx Jared Dion - WI
« Thread started on: Sep 22nd, 2004, 07:36am »

Dion, a popular wrestler who had recently turned 21, took one of the university's Safe Ride program buses from the campus into La Crosse on April 9 and got drunk in the city's bars.
Sometime in the early morning hours of Aug. 10, he left a group of friends waiting for the last bus — the so-called "drunk bus" — back to the school, walked into the city's Riverside Park, and apparently fell into the Mississippi River and drowned.

Related articles:

Drowning in Coincidence:
http://www.vanceholmes.com/court/trial_missing.html

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/US/Living/student_drinking_040830.html

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xx Jared Dion Website
« Reply #1 on: Sep 22nd, 2004, 09:52am »

http://www.uwlax.edu/findjared
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xx Students say drinking is ‘the same as it was'
« Reply #2 on: Sep 30th, 2004, 6:39pm »

For some college student, it's drinking as usual at this year's Oktoberfest. Advertisement

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Just six months ago, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student Jared Dion became the seventh young man to drown in area waters in as many years.

Alcohol played a part in all seven deaths.

"It's unfortunate that nothing has really changed in the aftermath," said UW-L student Shannon Radel of Spring Green, Wis., of the drinking habits of her peers in the wake of Dion's death.

"It's the same as it was," she said, sitting at a picnic table Saturday night on the South Side Festgrounds.Josh Morales, 22, a recent

UW-L graduate and childhood friend of Dion's, said he gave up drinking for a while after his buddy's body was discovered in the Mississippi River five days after he disappeared after leaving a downtown La Crosse tavern.

Morales said it upset him at the time that friends "continued to live life like they always had."

UW-L student Mike Ladendorf said he has noticed one change in partying habits. "It's important to always try to leave with someone you know," he said.

Ladendorf noted that that goal isn't always easy.

"There is always the kid who says they don't want to hang with the group anymore," he said.

"And for as much as I care for you guys, when I want to go home, I want to go home," Ladendorf said with a laugh.

Wendy Christopherson, who graduated from UW-L in May, said she and her friends try to stay in groups when out on the town.

Fellow graduate Monica Wilkersen said that since she has moved to Madison, she drinks far less than she did while going to school in La Crosse. "La Crosse is a good drinking town," she said.

http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2004/09/26/news/z1drink_26.txt
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xx Claim filed against city in river death denied
« Reply #3 on: Oct 6th, 2004, 08:04am »

A $250,000 claim against the city in the May drowning death in the Mississippi River of Jared Dion, 21, student at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse has been denied.

Pat Houlihan, city attorney, said the Dion family have six months to file a lawsuit.

The claim, filed by Dion's parents and a brother, said the city contributed to Jared's death.

Dion, 21, of Pewaukee, Wis., disappeared early April 10 after leaving a downtown La Crosse bar. His body was found in the river April 15.
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2004/10/06/news/z05riverdeath.txt

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xx Students say drinking is ‘the same as it was'
« Reply #4 on: Oct 23rd, 2004, 10:46pm »

For some college student, it's drinking as usual at this year's Oktoberfest. Advertisement

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Just six months ago, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student Jared Dion became the seventh young man to drown in area waters in as many years.

Alcohol played a part in all seven deaths.

"It's unfortunate that nothing has really changed in the aftermath," said UW-L student Shannon Radel of Spring Green, Wis., of the drinking habits of her peers in the wake of Dion's death.

"It's the same as it was," she said, sitting at a picnic table Saturday night on the South Side Festgrounds.Josh Morales, 22, a recent

UW-L graduate and childhood friend of Dion's, said he gave up drinking for a while after his buddy's body was discovered in the Mississippi River five days after he disappeared after leaving a downtown La Crosse tavern.

Morales said it upset him at the time that friends "continued to live life like they always had."

UW-L student Mike Ladendorf said he has noticed one change in partying habits. "It's important to always try to leave with someone you know," he said.

Ladendorf noted that that goal isn't always easy.

"There is always the kid who says they don't want to hang with the group anymore," he said.

"And for as much as I care for you guys, when I want to go home, I want to go home," Ladendorf said with a laugh.

Wendy Christopherson, who graduated from UW-L in May, said she and her friends try to stay in groups when out on the town.

Fellow graduate Monica Wilkersen said that since she has moved to Madison, she drinks far less than she did while going to school in La Crosse. "La Crosse is a good drinking town," she said.

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xx Ex-inspector says city is hushing up Riverside ...
« Reply #5 on: Oct 25th, 2004, 06:46am »

The former chief inspector for the La Crosse Inspection Department contends that his attempt to investigate the lower walk at Riverside Park was part of the reason he was let go during his probationary period. Advertisement

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But Mayor John Medinger says John Lickteig was let go because he failed to meet probationary standards, not because of his attempted investigation of safety at the park. "He is not a whistle blower, he's another disgruntled employee," Medinger said.

Lickteig and town of Campbell resident and Realtor and broker/owner of Century 21 Rick Hamilton, who has voiced concerns with safety of the lower walkway at several public meetings, say they believe city officials have ignored their concerns because the city is facing a possible suit by the family of University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student Jared Dion, who drowned in the Mississippi River last April. The city has denied the family's $250,000 claim, received Aug. 9, and the family has six months to file a lawsuit.

"They are afraid if they would admit the design was a public hazard, that would put them in a poor position on a potential lawsuit," Hamilton said.

Though he has lived here all his life, Hamilton said he'd never looked at the levee, and took Police Chief Ed Kondracki's challenge to check it out to accept that Dion's drowning was accidental, not the result of a serial killer.

"I just do not want another drowning this winter," Hamilton said, showing information regarding cold-water drowning. "I am getting involved again because the water temperature is dropping."

Lickteig, who was hired last December, was terminated July 1 during his probationary period. He said he has 10 years of experience in Rhinelander and Fort Atkinson.

Last week, he gave memos from his personnel file to the La Crosse Tribune. He and Hamilton said they gave Lickteig's report and a communication from a Corps of Engineers representative to the La Crosse Board of Harbor Commissioners and plan to give them to La Crosse Common Council members. In addition, they said they will ask to present them to the Task Force to Review Alcohol Ordinances, Infrastructure of Riverside Park and Community Attitudes and Readiness.

In April, after Dion's drowning, Lickteig inspected the levee at Hamilton's request.

Complete Article:
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2004/10/25/news/z1river_25.txt
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xx Drownings haunt Wis. college town
« Reply #6 on: Oct 29th, 2004, 08:02am »

LA CROSSE, Wis. — The last time anyone saw Jared Dion alive, he was trying to beat last call at a Third Street bar on Easter weekend.
By the time a police diver pulled his body from the Mississippi River five days later, many residents here believed that the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse senior had become the victim of a serial killer.

Dion was the sixth man to drown in La Crosse since 1997. All were white, ages 19-28. Four were college students. All had a blood-alcohol level greater than 0.22%, nearly three times the legal limit to drive.

Like others, Kellie Halfen, a classmate of Dion's, believes that a serial killer is stalking young men in downtown bars, luring them three blocks to Riverside Park and pushing them into the deep water. "There's too much going on for it just to be coincidence," says Halfen, an art education major from Somerset.

Even now, six months after Dion's death was ruled an accident, the debate over how he died divides this Midwest college town. Speculation about a serial killer came to a boil at a meeting a week after Dion's body was found in April. Residents shouted down the police chief because they thought he quickly dismissed the prospect.

Last month's Stuff magazine, which targets men ages 18-25 by featuring scantily clad women on the cover, included a story about the drowning.

The notion of a serial killer is also fueled by Web sites, including one by Vance Holmes, who calls himself a concerned citizen from Minneapolis. He says the deaths are more than coincidence.

But Police Chief Ed Kondracki says there is no indication of foul play in any of the drownings. In Dion's case there were no signs of trauma. An autopsy showed that Dion, 21, a business major from Merton, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.40% — a near-fatal level. Police believe he was drunk, wandered to the park and fell off a 10-foot retaining wall into icy water.

"Yeah, there's a serial killer out there. He goes by the name of alcohol," Kondracki says.

La Crosse is typical of many Wisconsin towns. German and Swedish immigrants built this city of 52,000 by logging and brewing beer. Taverns became a focal point for community activity.

That culture was evident to Joe Baker, the athletics director at UW-La Crosse, when he arrived from Alabama nine years ago: "I went from barbecue and sweet tea to brats and beer."

At one time, La Crosse had eight breweries. Only one remains. But there are more than 300 places in town to buy alcohol — triple the number of churches.

"We've had a reputation as a hard-drinking river town for 150 years," Mayor John Medinger says. "There's just a culture in La Crosse that tolerates excessive drinking."

That's beginning to change. After Dion's death, Medinger appointed a task force on alcohol use and expects a full report in January.

At the center of the city is UW-La Crosse with 8,000 students, the largest of three colleges in town. "Everyone here is very goal-oriented and motivated. They see Saturday night as a release, a chance to go out and have a good time," says Adam Dow, a senior from Plover majoring in elementary education. "We're not any different than any other college."

As many as 1,400 deaths a year in the USA are linked to college binge drinking — five or more drinks at one sitting, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"We know binge-drinking kills," says Doug Hastad, the chancellor of UW-La Crosse. "We're not prohibitionists, but we are doing everything we can."

The town's three colleges have given recommendations to the task force, such as a ban on $5 all-you-can-drink specials at bars and stricter enforcement of underage drinking laws. The schools have also made alcohol education and counseling widely available to students.

Among the ongoing efforts is the "Safe Ride" program, a free city bus sponsored by the schools. It makes a 30-minute loop from the cluster of bars at Third and Pearl streets to Viterbo University and UW-La Crosse.

Students call it the "drunk bus." After 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the bus is packed with students who clearly are a few beers beyond having a buzz.

Krystyn Heller, a fitness major from Racine, and three girlfriends clamber aboard at 11 p.m. on a recent Saturday night, shivering without coats in a wind chill of 33 degrees.

It's been a "total party day," says Heller, 22. Her foursome started drinking at 11 a.m., just before UW-La Crosse played its first home football game of the season. They progressed to an evening house party. Then they went home to freshen up, knock back a few shots and hop on the bus to the bars.

"It's great there's a bus. They make sure you get home safe," Heller says. She has to shout to be heard above the 46 other students on the bus. They'll have three or more hours of drinking before the return trip. "I mean, can you imagine if we all drove cars?" she asks.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-10-28-drownings_x.htm
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xx College town fears killer is drowning young men
« Reply #7 on: Oct 31st, 2004, 01:29am »

LA CROSSE, Wis. - The last time anyone saw Jared Dion alive, he was trying to beat last call at a Third Street bar on Easter weekend.

By the time a police diver pulled his body from the Mississippi River five days later, many residents here believed that the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse senior had become the victim of a serial killer.

Dion was the sixth man to drown in La Crosse since 1997. All were white, ages 19-28. Four were college students. All had a blood-alcohol level greater than 0.22 percent, nearly three times the legal limit to drive. advertisement

Like others, Kellie Halfen, a classmate of Dion's, believes that a serial killer is stalking young men in downtown bars, luring them three blocks to Riverside Park and pushing them into the deep water. "There's too much going on for it just to be coincidence," says Halfen, an art education major from Somerset.

Even now, six months after Dion's death was ruled an accident, the debate over how he died divides this Midwest college town. Speculation about a serial killer came to a boil at a meeting a week after Dion's body was found in April. Residents shouted down the police chief because they thought he quickly dismissed the prospect.

Last month's "Stuff" magazine, which targets men ages 18-25 by featuring scantily clad women on the cover, included a story about the drowning.

The notion of a serial killer is also fueled by Web sites, including one by Vance Holmes, who calls himself a concerned citizen from Minneapolis. He says the deaths are more than coincidence.

But Police Chief Ed Kondracki says there is no indication of foul play in any of the drownings. In Dion's case there were no signs of trauma. An autopsy showed that Dion, 21, a business major from Merton, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.40 percent - a near-fatal level. Police believe he was drunk, wandered to the park and fell off a 10-foot retaining wall into icy water.

"Yeah, there's a serial killer out there. He goes by the name of alcohol," Kondracki says.

La Crosse is typical of many Wisconsin towns. German and Swedish immigrants built this city of 52,000 by logging and brewing beer. Taverns became a focal point for community activity.

That culture was evident to Joe Baker, the athletics director at UW-La Crosse, when he arrived from Alabama nine years ago: "I went from barbecue and sweet tea to brats and beer."

At one time, La Crosse had eight breweries. Only one remains. But there are more than 300 places in town to buy alcohol - triple the number of churches.

"We've had a reputation as a hard-drinking river town for 150 years," Mayor John Medinger says. "There's just a culture in La Crosse that tolerates excessive drinking."

That's beginning to change. After Dion's death, Medinger appointed a task force on alcohol use and expects a full report in January.

At the center of the city is UW-La Crosse with 8,000 students, the largest of three colleges in town. "Everyone here is very goal-oriented and motivated. They see Saturday night as a release, a chance to go out and have a good time," says Adam Dow, a senior from Plover majoring in elementary education. "We're not any different than any other college."

As many as 1,400 deaths a year in the USA are linked to college binge drinking - five or more drinks at one sitting, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"We know binge-drinking kills," says Doug Hastad, the chancellor of UW-La Crosse. "We're not prohibitionists, but we are doing everything we can."

The town's three colleges have given recommendations to the task force, such as a ban on $5 all-you-can-drink specials at bars and stricter enforcement of underage drinking laws. The schools have also made alcohol education and counseling widely available to students.

Among the ongoing efforts is the "Safe Ride" program, a free city bus sponsored by the schools. It makes a 30-minute loop from the cluster of bars at Third and Pearl streets to Viterbo University and UW-La Crosse. Students call it the "drunk bus." After 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the bus is packed with students who clearly are a few beers beyond having a buzz.

Krystyn Heller, a fitness major from Racine, and three girlfriends clamber aboard at 11 p.m. on a recent Saturday night, shivering without coats in a wind chill of 33 degrees.

It's been a "total party day," says Heller, 22. Her foursome started drinking at 11 a.m., just before UW-La Crosse played its first home football game of the season. They progressed to an evening house party. Then they went home to freshen up, knock back a few shots and hop on the bus to the bars.

"It's great there's a bus. They make sure you get home safe," Heller says. She has to shout to be heard above the 46 other students on the bus. They'll have three or more hours of drinking before the return trip. "I mean, can you imagine if we all drove cars?" she asks.

http://www.azcentral.com/offbeat/articles/1029Drowning-ON.html
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xx Alcohol task force to make recommendations
« Reply #8 on: Nov 22nd, 2004, 06:51am »

A task force looking at alcohol issues in La Crosse might recommend that a professional evaluate possible improvements to the Riverside Park levee, such as fencing and lighting. Advertisement

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The La Crosse Common Council authorized Mayor John Medinger to appoint the task force after the April 10 drowning of University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student Jared Dion in the Mississippi River off Riverside Park.

Cities and Villages Mutual Insurance Co., the city's insurer, will have someone look at the park's infrastructure, City Attorney Pat Houlihan told the task force Wednesday. "We ask for your patience regarding the levee issues."

When improvements were made to the levee during the past decade, the city hired an architect and contractor and obtained federal and state approval for them, so "those issues may have been the responsibility of someone else," he said.

The task force had scheduled a closed session to discuss the claim of Dion's family against the city. The city denied the claim in September, and the family has six months in which to file a lawsuit.

Wisconsin exempts government bodies from the open meetings law to discuss possible litigation. But the La Crosse Tribune questioned why the task force could hold a closed session as it would not be a party to any possible litigation. After researching the question, Houlihan advised that a closed session could not be held.

In preparation for giving recommendations to the council, task force members each gave their top priorities. They included keg registration, rail or fence and lighting at the levee, training for people who serve alcoholic beverages, limitations on drink specials, especially after midnight, decreased density of bars, increased police patrol of hot spots, stricter enforcement of drinking ordinances, community education about alcohol abuse, more enforcement of ordinances regarding house parties, and an ongoing committee to see that the recommendations are enacted.

The group hopes to give its recommendations to the council in February, said Petra Roter, task force co-chairperson.

Based on a recent meeting with members of the Tavern League, Police Chief Ed Kondracki said they are cooperative and already taking some actions voluntarily.

Deputy City Attorney Peter Kisken said the police could supply colleges with lists of all adults between 18 and 25 who are arrested for alcohol-related incidents every Monday morning.

Roter said she did not know when the colleges will begin receiving the lists.

http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2004/11/18/news/z05panel.txt
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xx Dion's Name Mentioned in this Article:
« Reply #9 on: Dec 1st, 2004, 07:50am »

In April, UW-L student Jared Dion drowned in the Mississippi River after a night of drinking downtown. That led to pressure for the school to offer alternatives to the party scene. In August, Dion's parents filed a notice of claim with the state, the first step to a lawsuit, claiming UW-L was partially responsible for their son's death.

Here was binge drinking, a huge problem. And here was poker, so popular that students might actually choose it on a Friday night over a party. It was worth a try.
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2004/11/28/news/00lead.txt
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xx Re: Jared Dion - WI
« Reply #10 on: Dec 31st, 2004, 08:07am »

Dion drowning

Finishing a close second in voting by the Tribune staff was the April drowning death of a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student.

On April 10, shortly after bar time, 21-year-old UW-L student Jared Dion of Merton, Wis., disappeared after becoming separated from friends as they left a downtown bar.

His body was found five days later in the Mississippi River near Riverside Park and an autopsy ruled his death a cold water drowning.

Dion's blood alcohol concentration was .27.

His death sparked rumors of a serial killer. Dion was the seventh young man since 1997 to drown in La Crosse area rivers.

After Dion's death, a town hall meeting was called by the chief of police, a mayor's task force on alcohol was formed and the family might sue the city for wrongful death.
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2004/12/31/news/00lead.txt
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xx Former city inspector suing over dismissal
« Reply #11 on: Jan 25th, 2005, 07:35am »

MADISON — La Crosse's former chief building inspector filed a federal lawsuit Monday that claims he was fired for raising concerns about a Riverside Park dock after a college student's drowning last spring. Advertisement


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Two months after John M. Lickteig drafted a report calling the dock area "very dangerous," Director of Buildings and Inspections Kenneth Dentice fired Lickteig for unspecified reasons, according to the complaint.

Just three months earlier, Dentice had described Lickteig as "very intelligent and a hard worker" in an initial job review.

In April, local boater Richard Hamilton asked that city inspectors look at the Riverside Park levee after the body of University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student Jared Dion was pulled from the Mississippi River just south of the park.

Authorities said the 21-year-old fell into the river after a night of drinking downtown. But some maintain the number of river drownings — seven men since 1997 — could be the work of a serial killer.

Hamilton noted the Riverside Park levee, where large boats dock, had a walkway bordered only by a 5-inch-high curb, with a drop of more than 4 feet to the river.

When Lickteig told Dentice he wanted to inspect the levee, Dentice said it was the responsibility of the police or parks departments. But Hamilton convinced Lickteig he was required to inspect any city structure, including the levee.

On April 27, Lickteig inspected the levee and told Hamilton he believed the area was a public hazard that should be roped off until a permanent fence could be installed.

Lickteig also drafted a report to Dentice the same day that declared the area unsafe. But when Dentice learned of Lickteig's actions, he verbally reprimanded him.

Hamilton later used Lickteig's conclusions when urging Common Council members to put a railing along the river, and called on them to allow Lickteig to complete his report.

On June 14, Dentice extended Lickteig's probationary period another six months, informing him by memo of his disdain for having to "comment in front (of council committees) and the (Tribune) newspaper why I had to pull you off of the ‘investigation' and why I wouldn't ‘let you complete your report.'"

The June 14 memo also faulted Lickteig's job performance. The suit contends any performance issues were due to inadequate staffing, computer problems, and lack of supervisory support from Dentice.

Dentice fired Lickteig July 1. He remains unemployed, said his attorney, Tim Edwards of Madison.

Edwards said his client was fired only because city officials were worried that Lickteig's safety concerns about Riverside Park would make La Crosse vulnerable to a lawsuit.

"The city is exempt from immunity under the recreational immunity law if they knew there was a defect and, by admitting there was a defect, opened the door to liability," Edwards said in a phone interview. "We have strong evidence to suggest they knew there was a defect,"

Edwards wouldn't reveal the evidence, but an affidavit from Hamilton filed with the suit states La Crosse Mayor John Medinger told him constructing a barrier around the Riverside Park levee would amount to a admission of liability for the drownings.

The suit names Dentice and the city's insurers as defendants, and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for what it contends was a violation of Lickteig's First Amendment rights.

Contacted Monday in La Crosse, City Attorney Patrick Houlihan denied Lickteig was fired in retaliation.

"No, he was a probationary employee and didn't work out," Houlihan said. "For his benefit, personnel matters are best left private. I don't want to hurt him by discussing it."

A council committee has been studying possible ways to make the city's riverfront safer, with a report due in March, Houlihan said.
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2005/01/25/news/oolead.txt
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xx Dion's family sues city
« Reply #12 on: Mar 4th, 2005, 07:17am »

Dion's family sues city
By Kevin Murphy / Special to the Tribune


MADISON — The family of a college student who drowned in the Mississippi River in April 2004 has filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying the city of

La Crosse fostered binge drinking by providing a "drunk bus service" and allowing a "Little Las Vegas" of bars downtown.

The complaint was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Madison by the estate of Jared Dion, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student from Pewaukee, Wis., who disappeared April 10, 2004, after a night of drinking downtown. His body was found in the river five days later.

The suit claims the city's "get home safe" bus ferried students, including Dion, from campus to Pearl and Third streets, an area of about 20 bars, "famous for intoxicated bartenders, $5 all-you-can-drink beer specials and underage drinking."

The "party atmosphere" is fueled by the city's "lax enforcement against intoxicated bartenders and underage drinking," the suit contends.

Also faulted in the suit is the city's Riverside Park area. Renovations to Riverside Park, beginning in 1997, brought more foot traffic to the riverfront without providing adequate pedestrian safeguards, according to the suit.

One section of the park that was improved for boat mooring now has a 5-inch concrete curb that could trip pedestrians, tumbling them into a relatively deep and swift section of the river, the suit claims. Installation of "deadman sheeting" to protect the harbor dock created a 52-inch barrier that can prevent a fallen person from "escaping the deadly clutches of the river."

When a city inspector warned of the dangers posed at the harbor dock, the city fired him instead of providing sufficient lighting or gate access to the dock, the suit claims.

All these factors contributed to Dion getting drunk, missing the last "drunk bus" back to the campus and dying "in the cold dark" water off the park docking area.

A few weeks after Dion's drowning, La Crosse Police Chief Edward Kondracki said at a public forum that he views the young men who drowned "as victims of an alcohol culture that target them and encourage binge drinking."

James Gende II, attorney for Dion's estate, declined to discuss the suit Tuesday, saying he would let the "pleadings speak for themselves."

The suit alleges violations of the Safe Place Act for the hazards and nuisances created in Riverside Park and negligence in failure to adequately train Municipal Transit Utility drivers who transport students to and from the downtown bars.

Named as defendants are the city; Randy Turtenwald, city engineer; Robert Berg, parks director; Keith Carlson, transit manager; Mayor John Medinger; Kenneth Dentice, buildings and inspections director; and Cities and Villages Mutual Insurance.

City Attorney Pat Houlihan said he was surprised the suit was filed in federal court because the allegations against the city and UW-La Crosse involve matters of state.

"Legally we will respond vigorously to the lawsuit. The city and the university and the community have taken progressive efforts to address the community concern regarding drinking," Houlihan said Tuesday. "The lawsuit attempts to portray the city and university as promoting binge drinking, that's as far from the truth as can be, because we have taken the leadership role to do something."

Medinger said the lawsuit is "a good example of no good deed goes unpunished."

"The city tried to keep drunk drivers off the road with a safe ride bus, and created an alcohol task force to deal with the national issue of binge drinking, and it is being used against us," Medinger said. "It is lawyers being lawyers."
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2005/03/02/news/02dion.txt
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xx City council accepts alcohol task force's report
« Reply #13 on: Mar 14th, 2005, 05:19am »

By JOAN KENT / La Crosse Tribune

The La Crosse Common Council on Thursday unanimously accepted a report and recommendations designed to deal with binge drinking in the city.

"We recognize that addressing these issues will not be easy ... and will require courage to move in a new direction," said Petra Roter, co-chair of the city's alcohol task force. "This is not a temperance group. Our focus is on the misuse of alcohol."

The council's vote was to accept the report in concept and file, a move suggested by council member Audrey Kader, who said she wasn't sure if the council was ready to accept every segment of the report.

The council had directed Mayor John Medinger to form the Task Force to Review Alcohol Ordinances, Infrastructure of Riverside Park and Communi-ties Attitudes after University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student Jared Dion drowned in the Mississippi River off Riverside Park last April.

After six months of work, the 15-member task force presented recommendations on everything from keg registration to increased police patrols of house parties. The plan focuses on education, enforcement and environment.

At a hearing on the task force report Thursday, several speakers, including Lee Rasch, president of Western Wisconsin Technical College, said they supported the panel's recommendations.

"This is an opportunity to address a situation where perhaps we are more tolerant of high-risk drinking than other communities," Rasch said. "I am not talking of a prohibition, but of high-risk drinking. We cannot expect an overnight solution ... but that we take these steps to be better, healthier and happier."

The La Crosse City/County Tavern League, however, has deep concerns about some aspects of the report, though president Jeff Woodruff said the league respects the task force's work and is "not afraid of change."

Keg registration is an important part of the recommendations because many people are drunk before they come downtown, said Don Padesky, owner of the Casino tavern.

Medinger urged passage, saying he was embarrassed for the community because Oktoberfest is changing its parade hours to decrease harassment of bands and other parade participants by drunk spectators.

Council member Bruce Ranis, however, criticized the report for not considering personal responsibility. But Andy Monfre, who served on the task force, said that personal responsibility was a major concern, and that is why education is one of the recommendations.

The recommendations also include suggestions on which agencies should be responsible, timelines and funding possibilities.

In addition, the council passed a resolution establishing an oversight committee to monitor progress on the recommendations.
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2005/03/11/news/02alcohol.txt
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xx Re: Jared Dion - WI
« Reply #14 on: Apr 11th, 2005, 12:51am »

http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2005/04/10/news/00lead.txt


Published - Sunday, April 10, 2005

UW-L students dealing with aftermath of Dion's death




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By KATE SCHOTT La Crosse Tribune

It wasn't the image Meagan Kempen wanted for the newspaper.

When she took over as co-editor in chief of The Racquet, the student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse this year, she inherited a publication that was infamous for running a drink special advertisement on the same page as a tribute to Jared Dion.

This year's staff has set standards, banishing the words "drink special" from advertisements and working to get ads from other types of businesses.

It's one of the many ripple-effects at UW-L from Dion's death.

There will always be the questions about what really happened during the early morning hours of April 10, 2004, when Dion wandered away from friends in downtown La Crosse and wound up in the Mississippi River. He died of cold-water drowning; at the time of his autopsy, he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.27 percent.

His death brought attention to binge drinking. More interest bubbled up last month, when Wisconsin was named the top binge-drinking state in the nation in a study by Harvard University and the Centers for Disease Control; its colleges were ranked second.

"Those findings tell us by no means can we slack off at all on safety measures," said UW-L alcohol education coordinator Mary Torstveit. "This is not a time to slack off. It is a time to increase efforts."

Fallout

Dion's death, combined with the drowning deaths of six other college men in the past seven years in area rivers, raised awareness of excessive drinking and prompted the creation of a mayor's task force on alcohol issues.

It also, some students say, created a mindset that all students binge drink.

Andrew Swanson, 21, a resident assistant at UW-L's Drake Hall, remembers a local media report shortly after Dion's death that seemed to paint all college students as

"binge-drinking party animals."

He's not denying there are heavy drinkers among his peers. But most are responsible, he said.

"It's kind of made us more like, oh, you think I'm a binge drinker," he said. "It kind of makes me mad sometimes, because of this one incident, we all get this label."

Eight students, not including Swanson, interviewed for this story live in Drake Hall and spent a half-hour sharing their thoughts on alcohol awareness issues on campus. They have noticed changes in the past year, including an increased police presence, increased attention to the issue and what they described as a crackdown on drinking of any kind.

"We, as students, don't see it as an issue so much but ... ever since last year, the community is making it more of an issue, so therefore it's becoming an issue with us," sophomore Tara Nordquist said.

"I think they just need to accept that drinking is going to happen," she said later. "I don't see people ... stopping drinking because of the death of Jared Dion. It may have stopped us for two weeks or something, but now, I see it as being back to normal."

That sentiment also has been observed by Nick Nicholas, director of residence life. Conversations he has had with students reflect that some first-year students who weren't in La Crosse "feel that the university and the community may be coming down on college students even more so" because of Dion's death.

He said even a few parents have logged similar complaints after their children have been confronted for alcohol use. He said his staff inform them their main concern is keeping students safe.

It also led, in the mind of senior Lisa Jicinsky, to a polarization among students.

"I think some students were more of the aspect of, well, it's really his own fault, and other students were like, there's a problem and we need to address it. I don't think that polarization existed before."

Perceptions

The perceptions about drinking at UW-L appear to be shaped long before students step foot on campus. Focus groups held annually for the past three or four years by Torstveit have found students think of UW-L as a drinking school, of the town as a party place, and that "everyone drinks."

The Drake Hall students said they feel no pressure to drink and there are plenty of alcohol alternatives. But they agreed there is a perception that La Crosse is a place to party.

Some, like sophomore Alyssa Krumholz, heard it from her parents who attended UW-L. Others, like Nordquist, heard it from a waiter who attended the school; sophomore Devyne Strand heard it at a picnic with other soon-to-be students.

"I was told I had to raise my blood-alcohol level before I got here," sophomore Renee Sarow said.

Petra Roter, dean of students at UW-L, said there are cultural aspects that add to the problem: It's ingrained as an acceptable practice to drink. And it's not an exclusive problem for Wisconsin; among the top five binge drinking states are neighboring Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan.

Many students come to college with their drinking habits already established, she said, and Torstveit's focus groups have found incoming students have heard about the high concentration of bars in downtown La Crosse, of the world's largest six-pack and of Oktoberfest.

"There's a lot of temptation," said Scott Rohde, chief of campus protective services. "This is nothing unique to La Crosse. In college settings, alcohol is the No. 1 problem. It's just a plain fact."

Torstveit, who has been at UW-L since 1987, said nationally there are about 1,400 alcohol-related student deaths annually.

"You think a tragedy like this would change everyone's life in a campus community. But with revolving students, that's not true. One event and one tragedy is short-lived in the mind of students," she said.

"That's why it is important not to let up. Young people don't think it can ever happen to them. We owe it to that family to do every single thing we can to make sure it doesn't happen again."

continued below


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