Alcohol didn’t cost a South Pasadena teenager his life when he died after attending a party in December — but his friends’ fear of calling 911 did, the boy’s mother said in a statement released Tuesday.
That incident — one that could have been avoided with a call for help — inspired Azita Rezvan to throw her weight behind legislation from Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) that would give immunity to underage drinkers who call 911 when friends need medical assistance.
Rezvan’s son, Aydin Salek, died because his friends feared getting in trouble for drinking when they realized he was unconscious, Rezvan said.
“Unfortunately, calling 911 is not the normal routine in cases like this, especially for underage children,” she said.
The state Assembly on Monday overwhelmingly approved Portantino’s bill, which will now move to the state Senate for consideration.
The bill is meant to encourage teens to call for help when they notice a friend could be suffering from alcohol poisoning or other problems, Portantino said.
As it stands now, some teens fear they may face legal repercussions for drinking, even if they make a 911 call to help an intoxicated friend in danger, he said.
“There have been instances around the state where teenagers have been reluctant to call for help, and there have been consequences,” Portantino said. “This bill removes that barrier and incentivizes the call for help.”
While the delay in calling for emergency help for Aydin wasn’t intentional, clearly the teens had a fear of being underage drinkers and contacting authorities, Rezvan said.
“It is still hard to believe that he died because of his friend’s fear of calling 911,” she said.
The legislation was inspired by a suggestion from La Cañada PTA president Kathy Hernandez, who sent a message to Portantino via Facebook about the potential law, citing its effectiveness in other states like Colorado, Texas and New Jersey.
In those states, the assurance that teens would not be at risk of legal repercussions for underage drinking had resulted in more emergency calls, Hernandez said.
Researchers at Cornell University who examined a medical amnesty program at the University of Texas at Austin found that the amount of students in alcohol-related emergencies that had received treatment jumped 30%.
“We would much rather that no kids would drink when they’re under age, but we recognize that kids do,” Hernandez said. “And what’s most important is that when kids need emergency medical help, that they get it and we don’t want people to be afraid of calling for help for a friend.”
Community and law enforcement officials said arrests for teen drinking were not a problem in the Crescenta Valley and La Cañada Flintridge areas, but said they supported the bill’s premise. .
“The priority has to be saving a life and treating a medical emergency, and to do that effectively, barriers should be removed,” La Cañada Mayor Donald Voss said.