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Oklahoma authorities attempt to curb underage drinking

Law enforcement agencies pledge to crack down on underage drinking while teens celebrate spring break, prom and graduation.
BY LEIGHANNE MANWARREN Modified: March 15, 2013 at 8:28 pm •  Published: March 17, 2013

Sierra Jo Cook was hanging out with one of her classmates when they decided to cruise around with some of the older boys from town.

About an hour later, the car crashed into a concrete convert, killing Cook upon impact. It was Dec. 23, 2008. She was 13.

The driver, Trent Davis, was 16 and was drunk. He and his friend walked away without a scratch. Cook's friend underwent surgery, said Melissa Cornelius, Cook's aunt. None of the Mangum teens was wearing a seat belt.

Cornelius moved to Mangum in 2008 so her children could be around family. A few months later, Cook died.

“We have had our ups and our downs,” said Cornelius, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving volunteer victim advocate. “We have our good months and our bad months. This month has been really rough because it stirs up a lot.”

Tragedy did not end the night Cook died. After a few more run-ins with the law, Davis killed himself March 22, 2012 when he was 19, Cornelius said.

“By no means, was that what we wanted,” she said. “From the get-go, I told everybody in this town, my goal when I started volunteering with MADD was that him and I can walk into that school and he could tell his story and he could basically apologize to her class for what he did and his mistakes.

“I never, ever wanted this kind of outcome; none of the family did.”

Enforcement efforts

This story is a common one for law enforcement officers.

In 2011, 36 underage drinking drivers were killed or incapacitated statewide, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said.

“We are tired of going out, and working these cases backwards, where we find fatality accidents and we are going back and working back and holding people responsible,” said Erik Smoot, an Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission agent.

Besides conducting compliance checks, fake ID enforcement and party patrols, ABLE agents will be concentrating efforts on enforcing social host laws during a special push during the spring break, prom and graduation season.

“We want to prevent these things from happening,” Smoot said. “We want to be out there in advance. We want to stop these parties from happening.”

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