By Christy Strawser
(WWJ) Ryan Feeney, 17, left for spring break in Florida like thousands of his cold weather peers.
But he never returned to finish his senior year or go to prom. He didn’t get to head to Michigan State University, where he’d already been accepted on an ROTC scholarship.
Feeney died after an alcohol-related incident, leaving a family and hundreds of people in his community devastated. Dearborn High School had grief counselors on hand Monday, helping friends and staff members who were having a hard time coming to terms with the death of a young man who was by all accounts popular, sweet and well-mannered.
“We have a crisis team, they were at the school on Monday but because of the testing a lot of the seniors were out,” said David Mustonen, spokesman for Dearborn High School. “We will have them back out Monday, not only for the students, but also for the staff. It really hits hard.”
Feeney was with about a dozen of his pals, who were all between 16 and 19 years old, in a Fort Lauderdale house rented by someone’s parents when he overdosed on alcohol, according to a police report.
A friend had sent him to bed when he became belligerent from drinking, the report says. At about 4 a.m., they discovered he was unconscious and no one could wake him. Teens in the house called 911 and a parent who was staying two doors down rushed to help.
Officers arrived to find fake driver’s licenses and bottles of liquor strewn about the rented house, according to the report.
“The underage minors had an abundance of alcohol in the house,” police wrote in a report about the scene when they arrived. “Numerous bottles of various liquors and beer were present. At least three of the teenagers possessed false IDs. They had been drinking throughout the evening.”
Feeney was non-responsive when first responders arrived at the house, and a teenage pal was performing CPR on him on the bathroom floor. EMS took over chest compressions and transported Feeney to Holy Cross Hospital, where he was put in intensive care.
He reportedly clung to life for nearly a week before succumbing. While he was in the hospital, roughly 300 people showed up at a candlelight vigil in his honor at Dearborn High School.
As more testament to his popularity and the reach of his life, the city of Dearborn honored Feeney in an Instagram post, and a Go Fund Me account set up for the Feeney family already raised $34,000.
His family asked Dearborn High School for privacy in this difficult time, though his brother posted a loving message to him publicly on Facebook.
There were many messages of love for the Feeney family on the Go Fund Me page. “Words cannot express how deeply sorry I am for your loss. God bless you all,” one woman wrote.
Jennifer Saad of Commerce Township, a licensed social worker who specializes in addiction, says alcohol-related tragedies and near-tragedies among teenagers are all too common.
“People don’t frown about kids drinking alcohol the way they used to,” Saad said. “They think ‘at least they’re not doing heroin …’
“It’s really a difficult situation because you’re not going to stop them from drinking …You’ve got to know as a parent if they’re taking it to normal teenage experimentation or taking it to a whole new level, be aware of what that looks like.”