UM students fined in Old Town death

Posted May 01, 2009, at 7:25 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The morning of Feb. 15, 2009, is one that roommates Tania Riegelman and Rebecca Kosciszka likely will not soon forget.

The night before, the two University of Maine students held a party at their Old Town apartment. Aside from dozens of underage drinkers present, the night was uneventful.

The morning was a different story.

Sometime in the night, Dylan Lyford, a 19-year-old freshman from Milo, had fallen down a set of stairs and fatally fractured his skull. Mistaking his lack of responsiveness as alcohol-induced, partygoers carried him back upstairs around 2 a.m. Several hours later, Lyford was still unconscious and an ambulance crew was called. By then, it was too late.

Riegelman, 20, and Kosciszka, 19, pleaded guilty on Thursday in 3rd District Court in Bangor to furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol, a Class D misdemeanor. They were sentenced Friday and each was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine coupled with community service. A 48-hour jail sentence that had been recom-mended Thursday was waived by Judge Jesse Gunther on Friday.

“Anything you’ve learned, you learned before you got here today,” the judge said.

Both young women were emotional during Friday’s sentence hearing. Kosciszka tried to read a statement, but couldn’t finish. Riegelman wept during her brief remarks.

“I want to offer sincere condolences to the Lyford family,” Riegelman said with a shaky voice. “I now understand the true consequences and this has forever changed my attitude toward drinking.”

Judge Gunther said a letter submitted by Lyford’s mother — in which the woman placed no blame on Riegelman, Kosciszka or anyone else who was at that party the night of Feb. 14 — helped to clarify the situation. In an e-mail sent to the Bangor Daily News shortly after her son’s death, Susan Lyford indicated she hoped it would serve as a sobering life lesson.

“All we want is for people to hold on to the memories and remember Dylan for the child he was and the man he had become,” she wrote. “All we ask is that kids learn when someone hits their head you don’t let them go to sleep. Call for help. Maybe someone will remember this and it will make a difference for someone.”

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For Riegelman and Kosciszka, each of whom had supportive family members with them in court Friday, the difference was evident, Judge Gunther noted.

“This was obviously a terrible, terrible result,” she said, although she noted that underage drinking is not an uncommon occurrence. “And not just for Dylan; others have suffered greatly, too.”

Shortly after the proceeding, Kosciszka’s attorney, David Bate, agreed and said his client will live with regret for a long time.

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