Oil tank blast sparks debate

Underage drinking a major concern

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Kathleen Foos, mother of Sam Hedemark, listens to a reverend's message during a graveside memorial service for Sam Hedemark and Chris Fuller in Yampa on Saturday afternoon.

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Titus Larsson, brother of Sam Hedemark, kneels next to his brother's casket following a graveside memorial service for Sam Hedemark and Chris Fuller in Yampa on Saturday.

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A beer can rests about 50 feet from an oil rig and burned storage tank. Two South Routt teens died last weekend when one of the oil storage tanks exploded while they were on it. The deaths have prompted discussions about underage drinking in South Routt and surrounding communities.

— The mother of a teenager killed after a night drinking in the Routt National Forest thinks her son might still be around if South Routt communities had more to offer teenagers.

"Kids have been going out in the woods for a long time - this wasn't the first time," said Kathleen Foos, 17-year-old Sam Hedemark's mother. Hedemark died with 19-year-old Christopher Fuller in an oil tank explosion near Chapman Reservoir. They were among a group of about 20 teens and young adults who had gone to the well site in northeast Rio Blanco County for a party.

"We need a skate park, a swimming pool or some kind of (recreation) center for these kids to go hang out at night," said Foos, who has established the South Routt Youth Fund in memory of Hedemark and Fuller to raise money for a wide variety of community activities.

Discussing drinking

Both teenagers had marijuana in their systems and blood-alcohol levels higher than the 0.08 percent legal limit for driving, prompting discussions about underage drinking in South Routt.

South Routt Superintendent Kelly Reed said the school district is devastated by the loss of Hedemark and Fuller. He said he hopes the tragedy moves parents to talk with their children about alcohol use.

"I haven't been in South Routt long enough to have a historical perspective, but my professional viewpoint is I see today's youth drinking at an earlier and earlier point," he said. "When I first started in education, I'd see young people start drinking at 14 and 15. I now see it as young as 10 in South Routt."

Reed said the district has a three-pronged approach in dealing with underage drinking, and he stressed the vast majority of students in his school district understand the inherent dangers in alcohol use.

"We go in, and we provide education programs for kids in the schools for alcohol, drug and tobacco abuse," he said. "Teaching and support staff are given instruction to spot signs of use, and we have counselors to deal with these type of things."

"Teen years are tumultuous enough with what you go through. Put alcohol into the mix, and you get grave consequences."

'Kids everywhere drink'

Randi Cruson, 26, was one of 16 teens and adults present when the gas tanks exploded. Cruson said she and her friends have been drinking out in the woods since she moved to Phippsburg eight years ago. She does not see the explosion as an indicator that South Routt has more or less of a teen substance abuse problem than any other community.

"I know there are a lot of people in Oak Creek that do have problems, but I don't think things are out of control," she said. "It's just the usual thing everyone in their teens goes through. Normal kids everywhere drink. This was a tragedy that could have happened to anybody."

A Routt County parent survey conducted in 2005 revealed 44 percent of parents believed it was hard for youths to get alcohol, while 52 percent of surveyed parents said they have never instructed their teenager to take alcohol from the home.

Cruson said finding alcohol when she was a South Routt teenager wasn't difficult and noted things haven't changed.

"I've heard you can just go down to the gas station and ask someone to buy it for you," she said. "I didn't do that, but I hear stories like that all the time."

Addressing the problem

Colleen Lyon, Routt County director for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, said more can be done to curb teen drinking.

"There is a real need in Routt County of affordable and accessible after-school activities," she said. "There is a big chunk of our youth in our community that don't have a place to go or things to do. In the rural areas, especially in South Routt and Hayden, there are limited options."

Lyon said there is no single solution to combat underage drinking, but she stressed the community needs to look at all the variables that contribute to the problem, rather than resorting to finger pointing."

"I think it starts with giving youths more of a voice in our community," she said. "Not looking down on the youth. I think the bottom line is they need something - an opportunity - there are passions to be sparked."

Dr. Dawn Obrecht, a Steamboat Springs-based addiction specialist, said cutting off the source of alcohol won't curb underage abuse until the community begins to understand why teens drink and use drugs.

"The only reason to use a mind-altering drug is to change how you feel," she said. "Happy and joyful doesn't seem to be sufficient, and happiness and joy must be accentuated by a mind-altering drug. It's a disease of feeling."

Lyon said the deaths may put a spotlight on South Routt, but the problem persists throughout the county, including Steamboat Springs.

"Everybody in the community contributes to the issue," she said. "Do the youths feel valued in their community? Do they feel their community values tourism more than their youth? Do they have role models? What are the social norms in the community towards alcohol? You can't simply address one, blame one, or look for solutions on one of them.

"It's hard in the rural communities because of funding, but there are already some organizations out there working with youths. There's peer mentoring, Partners in Routt County, Grand Futures, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and the school system."

The issue is particularly difficult for parents of teens, Lyon said.

"Two teenagers died, and there is the attitude out there that this is just what happens," Lyon said. "But there is also the attitude that parents want to know how to address the problem."

Foos said she had spoken to her son about alcohol, but it's difficult to preach an alcohol-free lifestyle when other adults in the community buy it for teens.

"Whether it's your first time drinking underage or your 50th time, somebody might die," she said. "People are going out there and buying liquor and passing it down to the little ones. I hope people who see a kid take a beer out of their cooler feel like it's their responsibility."

Comments

cvlaz 7 years, 5 months ago

Kathy

The Lintel family offer you our strength to get through this-we have been talking and thinking of ways to help. You are one of the most loving mothers I have ever known and unless those who are judging have seen that light in your eyes they dont have a clue. We have seen the commitment and sacrifices you have made for your children. We all know the truth first hand-No one can take that from you.God has a better place for your son-he is probably fishing with Grandpa Cap. Just know he is surrounded by love and serenity. We will see you soon. I am so proud of you for becoming active in your community in trying to find social solutions for the " young and the restless" If anyone can do it, you can.

God bless you and yours

Your cousin Caroline

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dundalk 7 years, 5 months ago

Why do parents blame the community? A mother lets her son go out, beyond the state mandated, though rarely adhered to curfew? What's wrong with that picture?

Why do we, as a community need to offer more solutions to a mother who apparently blames every one but herself?

Sorry, while I feel angry and deeply saddened that two kids are dead, I point the blame squarely on the adults who failed these two kids: mainly the parents.

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1234 7 years, 5 months ago

dundalk you are real jerk obviously you do not have children and if you do i feel sorry for them these people have been through enough back off let them greive in peace . obviously you have never heard it takes a village to raise a child

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luvthmntns 7 years, 5 months ago

Dundalk, how cruel you are. Has it ever occured to you that maybe you don't know everything that this family has been through? You only know what the media is letting you know and then you base "your" facts on that. It is a pity that you can't look at the situation a little more openly. This mother has a broken heart right now and a little compassion from you would not be unappreciated. However, your constant finger pointing and self-righteous attitude are ridiculous. Try stepping back and looking at the whole picture not just the one that you are painting in your mind. And if you are the "compassionate" person you claim to be, then you would see with your heart. Working at the hospital and helping others does not necessarily make you a compassionate person, if this sort of thing makes you angry take that energy and use it to start a program for the youth in the area instead of blaming people, you know there is a saying that goes something like "if it is going to change it is going to start with me" I think that using your creativity and your "knowledge" of this situation you would be able to come up with a great plan instead of just giving lip service and blaming people. You have ideas that could be used and the energy to do it with, but then I know that if you focused on that you wouldn't be able to focus all your negative energy here and point fingers at distraught people who are going through the stages of grief.

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dundalk 7 years, 5 months ago

Hope about it takes a village to raise an idiot!

I have kids. However, as far as I am aware, my kids have never taken to jumping up and down on oil tanks. (Of course they are adults, out on their hown, making their own lives, with educational degrees to help them along the way)

You have obviously come into this argument, at the tail end. Re-read some of my posts and you will find that I am saddened by the amount of teens who filter through my job.

Its ridiculous to presume that Hillary Clinton's "village" garbage is even worth citing. Clinton is a moron, in a polyester pantsuit.

We, as a community, are getting fed up with burying children before the age of 21. We, as a community are fed up with parents who don't have neither the time nor effort to teach their kids responsibility. Why does a parent, like Kathy (I am not saying she's a bad person FYI) stand up and spout how the community is to blame for her son's death? Was every single person within the Oak Creek community present at the oil tank tango party?

Put blame where it belongs. In this case, I think there should be a parent taking some of the blame.

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dundalk 7 years, 5 months ago

luvthemtns:

I did offer a constructive idea for the teen problem of drinking, etc. People were more interested in blaming others and not keen on the notion of a community meeting which was offered at the YVMC about a week ago.

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dundalk 7 years, 5 months ago

To all Posters who have been taking glee in your slams towards me - I was struck by something which I wonder if any of you have actually noticed:

1) Has Kathy Foos been spending her time on this forum? If so, why?

2) If Kathy Foos hasn't been spending her time on this forum, then which of you loving people has brought the posts to her attention?

3) Why, if so many of you are soooo concerned about Ms. Foos' and her loss, would you even make her aware of posts here which might support her point of view as it relates to the untimely death of her young son.

Are you trying to bring the mountain to mohammed or the other way around?

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fish 7 years, 5 months ago

and thank you for the parenting advice from our own little Annwanabee. Those who don't know of our own little Ann's past posts about parenting are probably shocked by her tirades, but for those who have heard it before and know a little bit about her, know that this is a case of those who can't parent tell others how to.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 5 months ago

luvthmntns.... you quoted... "if it is going to change it is going to start with me"... if the parents would start thinking this way, they wouldn't have to whine that the village isn't doing enough to raise their children. You want me to take responsibility for your kids, consult me before having them.

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whitexoxo 7 years, 5 months ago

There's a lot of talk about parents taking responsibility for their kids. How do you expect these "children" to become adults if they never take responsibility for their own actions? Maybe if they knew they were responsible they'd take more care in their own choices...

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luvthmntns 7 years, 5 months ago

Actually Hilary Clinton was quoting an old African Proverb, she should not get the credit for the saying at all.

JQ I take full responsibility for my son and don't expect others to do so.

I know where my son is right now and every time he is away from me....it is called communication and trust and a seminar that I went to, Love and Logic... maybe we could get the presenter to do a parent meeting here.

As far as making changes I will help anyone who needs the help in getting something started.

Dundalk your offerings were great, now how about coming down to S. Routt and rallying the community to get on board?

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80488mom 7 years, 5 months ago

I really don't think a swimming pool, community rec center or much else is going to make a difference. Steamboat and Hayden have these and those kids are still running off into the woods to drink and party. Kids throughout Routt County are affected by the lure of drugs and alcohol. It's the feel good generation which in good part has been fueled by giving kids everything and not having them want for nothing. Let's face it American kids are spoiled.

I would also like to add that I am very sad that many have chosen to attack the parents of these two young teens during this tremendous time of grief. I find that heartless and cruel serving no useful purpose. Absolutely shameful.

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thecondoguy1 7 years, 5 months ago

I can't keep shut no more, Dundalk, has been there done that He/she speaks from the pillar of experience, and love, this is coming from a person who is sick over these events and given the power would stop it now. That means through this pain parents have to look at themselves and their children and make a plan to save their lives, if everybody goes with the sympathy only route nothing is said, than it's OK, it is not OK for our children to behave this way, it is not OK for us to raise our kids to be young adults just to bury them, it's not OK. We have got our wake up call, now what are we going to do with it??????????

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seabirth 7 years, 5 months ago

the problem imo is the fact that the culture of drinking and drug abuse is hardly a teenage only issue in routt county. there is a strong culture of overuse of alcohol and drugs in routt county, and it should be no surprise that children and teenagers learn this behavior from the culture they grow up in.

we need to look in the mirror and look at our own actions and the way we see drinking and drug abuse, and realize our perceptions shape those of younger generations.

a swimming pool and rec center are great ideas (kids should have safe and healthy activities available) but they will not change the culture in this county, only we can... and i have my doubts about whether we are willing to take that close of a look at ourselves.

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whitexoxo 7 years, 5 months ago

Instead of turning it into another ineffective war against drugs why not instill a notion of common sense in your kids...

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JazzSlave 7 years, 5 months ago

whitxoxo:

Congratulations, you've just made yourself a pariah here.

While I certainly sowed my share of wild oats in my teens & 20s, I can't imagine being as reckless as this group was.

In a previous thread on this issue, I was flamed for suggesting these people might have found something else to do. A common refrain was "there's nothing to do after hours if you're not 21." Can't have good time if you're not loaded, in other words.

I think I originally characterized that sentiment as sad. I was wrong. It's disgusting.

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theinformer 7 years, 5 months ago

I have watched this story with great interest and I cannot remain silent!!My heart breaks for these parents, I cannot imagine the pain of loosing your child. Yes, there is a lot to be said about parenting, however NON of us are perfect and children do not come with instruction manuals. I agree with a lot of what has been said but I do feel it could have been worded a little more gracefully! It has been commented on that there is nothing to do in this community for the youth, however it has not been mentioned that there is apparently nothing for the adults either! Why are adults out parting with teens? What could they have in common? I feel that every person out at that party should be charged. Yes, I did my fare share of parting while I was a TEEN with other TEENS! I also knew that it was against the law. When I was younger if you were underage and at a party and you were caught (drinking or not) you got a MIP, if you were an adult at that party (bought or not) you got contributing. THE LAW IS THE LAW! I am having a hard time feeling sympothy for the adults that where at this party. Some of them left their own children at home with a baby sitter to go out and watch other peoples children drink?! This community does NOT have to tolerate this behavior! If they cannot be role models or good mentors to our youth, than they need to be an example! We need to make clear as adults, parents, and a community that we support our youth and that we will protect them! No amount of words will take away the pain for these families and no amount of charges will reverse the damage of that night, however even if it only makes one adult or one teen think twice before doing anything like this, than it will be worth it! My thoughts and Prayers are with these families and all of those who felt the magnitude of this loss.

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LivingFree 7 years, 5 months ago

Dundalk not everyone in the world has the internet or even a computer for that matter.... I know in your perfect world that could never happen but its a fact.

Also consider the fact that your comments are more of a hinder then a help to Kathy Foos at this time and are best left on the net to which she has no access.

You on the other hand spend way to much time putting in your 2 cents on every issue that you think your the authority on. Whats your post count now? Find something else to do.

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dundalk 7 years, 5 months ago

living: so kathy has no internet access. so tell me then please how some posters here could rally and proclaim how upset kathy was.

point being: If she didn't read the posts here, so of her "friends" told her. And please tell me what that accomplished. In this case, perhaps she would have been better with the "ignorance is bliss" application.

P.S. I just got home from a 16 hr shift, am still writing my second book, remodeling my house and planning my next volunteer trip to an animal sanctuary in Utah. I'll see if I can squeeze in some rest time for you!

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 5 months ago

dundalk... have you noticed... some people do not like our opinions and would take away our right to state them, and they call us self-righteous. We've been told to quit posting or to move because they don't like what we are saying....well, if the truth hurts.... We look at a tragedy that could have been prevented and we get mad and speak up; they expect sympathy while the cause goes unspoken until it's a thing of the past.... when it's no longer an immediate problem they don't have to address it. Looks like now they want to tell you how to spend your time and don't want you posting because having an opinion makes you "think your the authority". Well, whatever they say is just "their opinion" (I doubt they are an authority) and I won't try to take away their right to state it.... but I wouldn't mind giving them an alternative place to stick it.

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steamboatsconscience 7 years, 5 months ago

Ah the tag team JQ the John to Dungdalk's Ann You two make me sick Through all your incarnations, davinci, numbers etc. your self righteousness and vitriol have shone through. you take delight in
others misfortune, enjoy in pounding your right wing anti hippie, anti Wall, anti anyone who doesnt fit your narrow definition of "people who should be allowed to live". No one should have to bury their children. I would rather die myself than to have that happen. Until it happens to you, you have no idea how it would feel. So how about shutting your fetid mouth(s) and apologize for your rude inappropriate behavior to the family of these children. Jerks.

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innovated 7 years, 5 months ago

JQPublic (Reta in Oak Creek) gets titillated if you react to her always negative, judgmental and insensitive comments. Don't react or feed into her. If you ignore her, you take her power away. This 'person' always challenges on the contrary with personal attacks with her ranting. Interestingly, she never contributes remedy towards positive feedback or feelings for others...just annoying jabs at personal tragedies, for what gain, who knows. What a total waste to mankind.

And for Dundalk (Ann): her self importance and superior than thou is embarrassing and she should get an academy award for her effort. She should be proud of kicking someone in the butt when they are besides themselves in grief. Shame on her. I see this as poor breeding for both. They should know better. They are desperate for attention. Remember, negative attention is better than no attention.

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steamboatsconscience 7 years, 5 months ago

innovated You said it much more eloquently than I could have. Thanks

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