A story that must be reported

January 15, 2013

We received three letters Tuesday, printed on this page, taking us to task for reporting on a state police finding that three Greene County teenagers killed in an Oct. 3 accident on Interstate 79 were inhaling the contents of a can of compressed air cleaner – huffing, to use the street terminology – prior to the mishap.

The writers of the letters argue that the Observer-Reporter has needlessly compounded the grief of the teenagers’ friends and families, didn’t tell the whole story of their lives, and their actions prior to the accident are irrelevant since the three young men are now dead.

We sympathize with those who were close to Cullin Frazer, Benjamin Hardy and Byron Kerr. The loss of a son, brother or friend just as they are entering the prime of life is, no one would doubt, a source of deep and lasting sorrow. However, in all due respect, we vigorously disagree with the notion that the circumstances surrounding the accident should not have been aired.

First, the findings of the police are a matter of public record, available for anyone to examine. The story the Observer-Reporter printed and placed on its website did not sensationalize those findings, adhering to a straightforward presentation of the facts.

And given that the sport utility vehicle the teens were traveling in veered off the road, went up the median, and then rolled over the other side into the opposing lane of traffic, readers have a right to know how this widely-discussed accident occured. The Observer-Reporter would have revealed what state police found if the accident had been due to a flaw in the vehicle, an obstruction in the road or if the police had been unable to pinpoint a cause.

Above all, the three teens and their families were not the only people to pay an awful price as a result of the accident. Michael Cohen, a 47-year-old motorcyclist from Ontario, was killed when the SUV crashed into him and his wife, who also sustained injuries. If Frazer, the driver, had survived, he would have almost certainly been prosecuted for driving while impaired.

“They simply made one bad decision for which they paid the ultimate price,” one of the letters states. But they also killed someone else in the process, and their reckless behavior is not something that should be swept under the rug.



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