Teen survives 150-foot bluff fall
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:31 AM
"RUAD forum to focus on teen drinkingParents, teachers, and teens are invited to attend a forum next Tuesday night at the South Whidbey High School to discuss ways to curb teen alcohol and drug use on South Whidbey.The forum is sponsored by the Washington Traffic Safety Council's Reduce UnderAge Drinking (RUAD) program, the South Whidbey School District, the South Whidbey Youth Center, the Island County Sheriff's Office, and the Langley Police Department.During the forum, two presenters will speak about how to stop children from drinking, and all community members will have the opportunity to talk about teen alcohol and drug use and their ideas for solutions to the problem.Also on hand will be faculty from the South Whidbey School District, the Island County Sheriff's Department, and from the state's Liquor Control Board. Liquor Control Board representatives will also have the agency's Fatal Vision Goggles on hand. The goggles are a virtual reality device that show how difficult it is to control an automobile while under the influence of alcohol.The evening starts at 6:30 p.m. in the school's new commons area.A young South Whidbey man is lucky to be alive this week after falling 150 feet off a bluff Friday night.Sean McLaughlin, 18, got too close to the bluff's edge at 7052 Maxwelton Road at about 9:45 p.m. He slipped slipped, then bounced down the nearly vertical bluff face.According to the Island County Sheriff's Office, McLaughlin and several high school friends were having a small drinking party at the home of a friend at the time of the accident. Some of those friends were near McLaughlin when he fell. They called 911 immediately.Darin Reid, the special services captain for Fire Protection District 3, said district volunteers had to hike a half mile from Maxwelton beach to reach McLaughlin. They found him on a hillside just above the beach. His condition was far better than the rescuers expected.He was talking and alert, Reid said.Due to the severity of the fall, Reid said the rescuers were faced with carrying McLaughlin on a backboard back to Maxwelton Beach. Knowing the trip would be hard on McLaughlin if he had any spinal or internal injuries, Reid said he and the other volunteers decided to call in a helicopter.Ten minutes after their request went out, a medevac helicopter from Airlift Northwest landed on the beach, then transported McLaughlin to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.Fire District 3 Chief Don Smith said he was impressed with the operation.They were there before we got the victim to the beach, Smith said. I've been to a lot of these (helicopter rescues) and I've never seen one go better than this.While the rescue was occurring near the beach, sheriff's deputies cited three 17-year-old boys on top of the bluff for drinking alcohol. One of those boys was also cited for furnishing the alcohol.According to a sheriff's office report, the boys had gathered at the home of a friend, whose parents were out of town. The boys admitted to drinking whiskey while celebrating a friend's birthday. During the rescue and while in the process of breath testing and citing the juveniles, deputies on the scene turned several carloads of juveniles away from the residence.McLaughlin was released from the hospital over the weekend and returned home.In an unrelated incident, an Island County Sheriff deputy arrested three Sedro-Woolley youths Friday night for underage drinking after making a traffic stop near the intersection of Highway 525 and Smugglers Cove Road. At about 11 p.m., two deputies came across a car in the ditch. While the driver was found to be sober, Dornita Nelson, 19, Walter Franklin, 19, and Nicholas Cummings, 20, all allegedly failed breathalyzer tests. While they were being arrested, according to the report, Nelson struggled to get away from Dept. Darren Crownover. She was handcuffed and was transported to Island County Jail along with Franklin and Cummings."