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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 5, 2010

More alcohol agents in Fla. town where player died


Associated Press

PANAMA CITY, Fla. Even before a Notre Dame football recruit died in a drunken fall from a hotel balcony, extra alcohol enforcement agents were on duty in this Panhandle town, just as they are every year for spring break, officials said Monday.

Matt James, 17, of Cincinnati, was the second teenager in two weeks to die. Police say the 6-foot-6, 290-pound offensive lineman was drunk and acting belligerent when he fell Friday night as he leaned over a fifth-floor railing to shake his finger at people in an adjoining room.

Brandon Kohler, a 19-year-old from Winder, Ga., died March 24 when he also fell from a fifth-floor balcony at another Panama City hotel.

The Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco said it sends 18 agents up from five the rest of the year to Panama City during spring break because of the high school and college students who go there.

Between March 11 and March 28, agents arrested 985 people in Panama City for underage possession of an alcoholic beverage, spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said.

An autopsy showed James died of brain injuries. Whit Majors, an examiner with the medical examiner's office, said Monday it would take up to three months to get toxicology tests completed that would show James' blood-alcohol content.

James was in Panama City with six chaperones and 40 fellow students from St. Xavier High School.

Panama City police officials did not return calls to The Associated Press on Monday, but Maj. David Humphreys told ABC's Good Morning America that witnesses said James had broken items in the hotel room before he fell.

He said investigators have not determined where James got the alcohol or if someone bought it for him. Humphreys had said previously that criminal charges are possible if police learn who bought the alcohol.

James originally planned to go to the University of Cincinnati, where Brian Kelly coached the last three years. When Kelly left for Notre Dame after the season, James reconsidered and chose the Fighting Irish over Cincinnati and Ohio State.