Sep 122006
Authors: JAMES BAETKE The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Samantha Spady was an artist, cheerleading captain and high school class president. Today, she is a national figure-a symbol for a soused university culture that sees 1,400 young college students die annually from binge drinking.

This according to a 30-minute documentary about the 2004 death of 19-year-old CSU student “Sam Bam,” as her old Nebraska license plates used to read, which brought a standing-room crowd to tears Tuesday night.

“Death by Alcohol: The Sam Spady Story,” is the product of a Colorado freelance journalist and the Sam Spady Foundation. The film is littered with Midwest scenes of Spady’s hometown of Beatrice, Neb., along with the familiar scenery of Horsetooth Reservoir and the CSU campus.

The ominous film’s opening of the 911 call made on Sept. 5, 2004, to report a dead body sent gasps through the packed Cherokee Ballroom in the Lory Student Center.

It continues with the haunting testimony of Spady’s parents, friends and Larimer County coroner, all remarking on the “trends and taboos” of American universities.

It was two years ago that Spady was found dead in a seldom-used room at the now defunct Sigma Pi Fraternity house, which has since transformed into an alcohol-free Christian residence for CSU students.

Spady, a victim of alcohol poisoning who died with a blood-alcohol content of .43, five times the legal limit to drive. Experts consider a BAC of .35 a likely lethal dose if left unnoticed, according to the film.

“I still today have horrible flashbacks of that night,” said Darren Pettapiece, the former president of the local Sigma Pi chapter.

Spady is thought to have been dead for 12 hours before a Sigma Pi Fraternity member found her unconscious while giving a tour of the house.

The documentary has gained national attention. Sam’s parents, Rick and Patty, have recently appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, delivering a message to never leave someone drunk alone.

Liz Kay, a sophomore speech communications major, said the documentary was “a touching account of such a tragic event.”

“The story of Sam hits your heart. I couldn’t help but cry a little,” Kay said.

Barry Bortnick, the producer of the film, made an agreement with CSU to give a free screening of the film to promote the dangers of alcohol over consumption and to remember the life of Spady.

“There was something about Sam’s story that really moved me,” Bortnick said. “Like a lot of people, I was really moved by her story of an all-American girl.”

The movie is a harsh reminder of Spady’s death reliving the details of her life and sudden passing. Film creators say the movie has been purchased by many Greek organizations, high schools and alcohol-related programs across the country.

“If Sam Spady had seen this movie prior to that weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if she would have survived,” Bortnick said.

DVDs of the movie are available online at for $25.

Staff writer James Baetke can be reached at


Call 911 if a person has any of the following symptoms:

* Unconscious or semiconscious

* Breathing less than 10 times per minute or irregular (check every 2 minutes)

* Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin

* Can’t be awakened by pinching, prodding or shouting

? Vomiting without waking up

Source: The Sam Spady Foundation

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