SALISBURY -- Despite Brian C. Ball's death from alcohol poisoning six months ago, teen-agers still make drinking a way of life on weekends here.
"It's really very, very hard to stop it," said Jack English, a student at Wicomico Senior High School. "If there's a party of any size, there's going to be alcohol there."
At a house outside Salisbury Aug. 9, Brian drank as many as 26 shots of liquor at a party attended by nearly 200 youths. Brian, 15, of Trenton, Texas, was visiting relatives in Salisbury when he went to the party with a cousin. Partygoers, who had no adult chaperones, were offered all the beer they could drink for $3, and shots of liquor for 50 cents each.
Brian died two days after the party of acute alcohol intoxication.
But if there was a lesson to be learned from his death, it may have been that one fatality is not enough to stop the drinking.
"Zoom, zoom, zoom," said Wicomico Principal Thomas B. Field, describing the sound of cars carrying teen-agers as they pass his house at the edge of Salisbury every weekend headed toward a drinking spot popular among local youths.
"I've come to the conclusion that they're not going to wake up," Mr. Field said.
Mr. Field said yesterday that he was "encouraged" to learn that Wicomico County State's Attorney Davis R. Ruark and state juvenile services officials had decided to take legal action against those minors who drank at the party last August.
"The message has to be sent to the parents," he said.
At least one parent of a teen-ager who was at the party said she was apprehensive about legal action that might be taken against her 16-year-old son, who helped drive Brian to the hospital.
"Being his parent and knowing what he went through afterwards, I would like to see this whole thing dropped," said Wanda Disharoon. "I'm really torn between this. This is knocking me for a loop -- but I don't think the kids should be getting away with this either."
Mr. English, 18, president of the high school student government, said legal action disclosed yesterday by the state's attorney could have a positive effect.
"They need to react harsher and quicker," he said. "The only thing some of these kids around here understand is a slap in the face."