Officials still studying reports from 'unofficial St. Patrick's Day'

Officials still studying reports from 'unofficial St. Patrick's Day'

Local officials will continue to study reports from the "unofficial St. Patrick's Day," which led to more 100 tickets being issued and a variety of arrests over the weekend.

One factor in common in those cases is an excess of alcohol, according to Champaign and University of Illinois officials. The death of a former UI student late Friday night also appears to be alcohol-related.

A 23-year-old Rolling Meadows man accused of driving a motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol in a fatal accident near Campustown was released on bond Saturday.

Samuel Park was arrested early Saturday for driving under the influence of alcohol following a crash that resulted in the death of a passenger, Caroline S. Yoon, 22, of Glenview.

He was released after posting $120 bond Saturday. He is due to appear in traffic court April 21.

Champaign police reported that Park was driving a motorcycle and crashed near the intersection of Healey and Wright streets about 11:55 p.m. Friday. Park swerved and lost control of the motorcycle, according to UI police.

Ms. Yoon was not wearing a helmet and received traumatic head injuries in the crash, according to the report. Both Ms. Yoon and Park had previously attended the UI.

Preliminary results of an autopsy on Ms. Yoon on Saturday indicated she died from traumatic head injuries, according to the Champaign County coroner's office. She was pronounced dead at 4:12 a.m. Saturday at the Carle Foundation Hospital Emergency Department.

Champaign and UI police had separate staff meetings Monday to discuss issues from what has been called "unofficial St. Patrick's Day." Despite the edicts from both Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart and Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing that prevented taverns from selling alcohol before 11 a.m. Thursday and Friday, there were large crowds of intoxicated people in the Campustown area Friday.

"We kept the bars from opening early, but they got around that by having house parties," Schweighart said. "It seems like anything you come up with, they come up with a way to get around it."

The event has been going on for several years, evolving from a spring break activity to a day when many students skip classes and begin binge drinking.

Hospital officials said Saturday that emergency room staffs treated many patients who were extremely intoxicated.

Schweighart said he understands that more than 90 kegs of beer had been sold by local liquor establishments.

"Kegs is definitely something we will look at," the Champaign mayor said. "We'll keep playing the chess game."

Champaign police spokeswoman Joan Walls said a preliminary analysis showed officers Friday issued 103 notices to appear in court. Most of those were for minors ages 18, 19 or 20 years old in possession of alcohol or for having open alcohol, she said.

Persons cited were from 25 different colleges and universities, but the majority were from the UI, Walls said.

UI police Assistant Chief Jeff Christensen said campus police had about 50 contacts with people Friday and early Saturday, mostly for behaviors associated with alcohol. Officers arrested more than a dozen people for various offenses, ranging from drunken driving and trespassing to battery, he said.

"One guy was just walking down the street throwing haymakers at women," Christensen said. "He was transported to a hospital for severe intoxication."

More than half those arrested were UI students, but police also dealt with students from about six other colleges as far away as Iowa, he said.

UI officials will continue to meet and discuss ways to prevent such problems in the future, Christensen said.

"It has grown every year," Christensen said. "From a public safety standpoint, there is not one thing positive about it."

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