by Tori Hamby

A search for answers in the death of a local teen has called attention to an issue that has plagued college campuses for decades – underage drinking.

Appalachian State University police found the body of Tyler Blalock, a 19-year-old sophomore, in an on-campus creek on Sept. 29. An autopsy determined that Blalock, a North Mecklenburg High School graduate, drowned at about 2:30 a.m. that morning.

“The evidence collected during the investigation confirms that Blalock was alone when he slipped on the edge of the creek and struck his head on some rocks as he fell into the water,” ASU police said in a statement.

According to police, officers investigating the death interviewed several of Blalock’s friends and traced his last hours back to an off-campus party at about 8 p.m. Sept. 28. While in a “somewhat intoxicated state” Blalock left to buy beer at a store and later returned to the party.

He left the party with friends at about 11:30 p.m. Sept. 28 to go to a bar and was spotted leaving the bar and walking toward campus at 2 a.m. Sept. 29 – closing time. Witnesses say he appeared severely intoxicated, according to reports.

Police found a North Carolina driver’s license belonging to another person, in addition to his own license, in Blalock’s wallet. The license, which reportedly belonged to someone older than 21, could have been used to buy alcohol.

Toxicology results from the autopsy will reveal how much alcohol was present in Blalock’s body at the time of death.

As a student, Blalock was an active part of ASU campus life, participating in intramural golf and basketball. His intramural basketball team won the campus-wide basketball championship this year.

Blalock mother, Lynn Blalock, did not respond to a request for comment before the Herald’s press deadline.

The Newton office of the state Alcohol Law Enforcement is investigating where Blalock might have obtained the alcohol. A representative with the office said no one could comment until the independent investigation is completed.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported that underage consumption of alcohol costs taxpayers $58 billion annually as a result of traffic crashes, violent crimes, burns, drownings, suicide attempts, alcohol poisoning and alcohol abuse treatment.

Davidson Police Chief Jeanne Miller said her department partners with Davidson College Police Chief Adrian Murray at the beginning of each school year to educate students living in the town about the consequences of underage drinking.

“I won’t say off-campus drinking doesn’t occur here, but it’s usually not a public affair,” she said.

While some businesses on Main Street – a common hangout for Davidson students – sell alcohol, Miller added that businesses owners have a history of being responsible and complying with alcohol laws. CVS, Summit Coffee, The Soda Shop, Toast Cafe and Brickhouse Tavern serve beer, wine or liquor.

Miller said students know that her department doesn’t make exceptions for students.

“If we catch a student drunk driving or a student whose off-campus drinking underage, they’re cited like any other person would be,” the town chief said. “When I meet with them, they’re told we aren’t going to give them a pass or look the other way.”

Tyler Lee Blalock

Tyler Lee Blalock, 19, of Charlotte, died Sept. 29, 2012, in Boone, N.C.

Blalock, born Oct. 14, 1992, was a son of Robert L. Blalock and Lynn Ragsdale Blalock. He was a graduate of North Mecklenburg High School who was majoring in sustainable development at Appalachian State University. He was a member of the ASU 2012 championship intramural basketball team and intramural golf team. He worked as a lifeguard for Charlotte Swim Club Management Group for the past two years.

He is survived by his parents, Lynn Blalock of Sparta and Robert Blalock of Charlotte, and brother, Derek
Blalock of Charlotte.

A funeral service was held Oct. 4 at University City Methodist Church, 3835 West W.T. Harris Blvd., Charlotte. Pastors Ron Smith, Chuck Wilson and Bob Miller officiated. Interment followed in Gethsemane Memorial Gardens.

Memorials can be made to the Appalachian Access Fund at P.O. Box 32007, University Advancement, Boone, NC 28608. Donations will help ASU students with financial need.