Combating a deadly trend

Published 4:44 pm Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When Jack Nutter answered the phone on Aug. 11, 1987, he had no idea how much his life was about to change.

Before he picked up the phone receiver, Nutter had enjoyed 16 years of watching his daughter, Ashleigh, participate in Girl Scouts, sing in the church choir and play softball.

But as Nutter listened to the voice on the other end of the line, he said his world seemed to halt.

“They were less than one minute from our house,” Nutter said. “The driver had been drinking, but the kids in the car were not aware of the state of the driver.

“The only survivor was not wearing her seat belt,” Nutter added.

Ashleigh and three other teenagers were killed when the red Mustang they were in left the road and struck a culvert near the Nutter’s Hoover home. Police later determined the car’s underage driver was intoxicated and was driving at a high rate of speed.

Although the accident occurred more than 22 years ago, Nutter said losing his daughter still haunts him every day.

“I don’t hear her name anymore,” Nutter said. “You hear it a lot right after the accident, but after a time, you just don’t hear it anymore.”

Nutter and several other Hoover parents, residents, educators and police officers recently launched a citywide campaign aimed at preventing teen drinking and prosecuting adults who facilitate it.

Through the campaign, called Host Pays, Hoover City Schools and the Hoover Coalition will be airing commercials featuring Nutter, posting yard signs, launching school-based teen peer programs and disseminating information through social media networks.

“Why are we doing this? We want adults to stop hosting underage drinking. That’s the bottom line,” said Hoover Police Lt. Mo Canady. “Parents are the number one factor in their kids’ drinking habits.

“That morning in 1987 when I got the news that four teens had died, I remember it like it was yesterday,” Canady added.

Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said underage drinking is a problem throughout the city, and police are working to prosecute adults who allow teens to consume alcohol.

“In the past two weeks, we sent home 64 kids with their parents from parties where alcohol was present,” Derzis said, noting the department served warrants on adults who facilitated the underage drinking. “If those kids hadn’t been picked up by their parents, they may have all gotten in their cars and left after they had been drinking.

“Is it a problem in Hoover? Absolutely,” Derzis added. “If you host a teen drinking party in Hoover, you are going to pay the price. That’s a promise.”

For more information about the Host Pays program, visit