By Reggie Ellis
On Sunday, California Highway Patrol officials confirmed what Lynne Goodwin already knew -- that her son was not driving under the influence on Jan. 2 when he was killed in a car accident.
Goodwin said the coroner's toxicology report found no trace of alcohol in Kyle Goodwin's body. Calls to the Coroner's office and California Highway Patrol were not returned as of press time.
Goodwin said the news will finally put an end to false statements and rumors that have been echoing throughout the Exeter community.
"I don't think anyone was intentionally trying to hurt Kyle's reputation," she said. "People naturally need answers to questions. That's just human nature."
While that question has been answered, many more remain a mystery for the Goodwin family. CHP officials are continuing to investigate the accident and the events leading up to it.
"It seems like the story unfolds daily," she said.
What is known is that Kyle was talking to his best friend, Keith Robinson, 16, on-line from about 2 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Robinson said Kyle did not mention he was driving to Three Rivers or even leaving the house.
"Both Keith and I thought it was weird that Kyle didn't tell Keith he was going somewhere," Goodwin said.
Sometime after that Kyle drove up to a house on Mineral King Road just outside of Three Rivers. At about 4:10 a.m. Goodwin's 1999 Volvo S-80 swerved off the road and rolled down an embankment. Kyle, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was partially ejected from the car and died at the scene.
During the investigation, CHP found a home glucose testing kit used to treat diabetes. Goodwin said she is beginning to think there was a third person in the vehicle. She said neither Kyle nor the passenger, a 16-year-old boy from Visalia whose name has not been released, have diabetes. There is also speculation that someone else had driven the Volvo back to Exeter to visit a friend at about 3 a.m. and then headed back up to Three Rivers before the accident. Kyle may have been a passenger in the car when it was driven back to Exeter.
"There wasn't a party, but we aren't sure why Kyle went up there," she said.
Lynne said no one at her house was aware Kyle had even left because they were all asleep. Lynne said Kyle was not allowed to drive to Three Rivers because he was an inexperienced driver and there were too many dangerous roads. Kyle was driving with a provisional license. The Department of Motor Vehicles requires that anyone with a provisional license must be accompanied by someone 25 years or older for the first six months if they drive between midnight and 5 a.m. or if they are transporting someone under the age of 20. The Volvo is Lynne's car. She said Kyle was not going to get his own car until he had more driving experience.
"We let Kyle get his license to show we were letting him move on with his life," Lynne said. "He should not have been driving in Three Rivers. He just wasn't ready."
The accident comes a little more than nine months after Kyle's older sister, Casey, was killed by a drunk driver near Kettleman City. Casey, 20, was driving home from college in San Luis Obispo for her mother's birthday on March 12. At about 6:30 p.m. Fernando Ochoa, 18, who was late to work and had been drinking, was traveling 90 mph on Highway 41 when he swerved into the opposite lane hitting Casey's car head on. Sadly, Casey was actively involved in drug and alcohol prevention activities both at Exeter Union High School and at Cal Poly, SLO. Lynne is an alcohol prevention specialist with Tulare County.
Lynne said Casey's Law, AB 216, was re-introduced on Tuesday, Jan. 13 by Assembly Majority Leader Wilma Chan (D-Oakland). Originally introduced on April 17, 2003, the bill would assess a fine on beer and distilled spirits manufacturers equivalent to the amount they generate from alcohol consumed by underage drinkers. The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information estimates some 12 percent of all alcohol sales are made to minors like Ochoa, translating to sales of about $100 million a year. The estimated $100 million (an assessment of roughly a penny a drink) the bill would raise in fines would establish community-based youth alcohol recovery centers throughout the state. The centers would provide an alcohol-free environment where young people can receive peer counseling, vocational training or other services they might need.
Lynne said her oldest son, Christopher, 20, has returned home from CSU Northridge to be with his family. A Division I waterpolo player, Christopher will try to find a local college to play waterpolo for to keep his eligibility while he lives at home indefinitely. Lynne's youngest child, Kellie, 14, has not returned to school.
"Our family is just devastated," Lynne said. "Casey and Kyle were very personable and were very close with all of their cousins [who are about the same age]. Normally at that age death is more removed from your life. I don't know how I'm going to send [Kellie] back out into the world. I know what kinds of rumors she is going to hear. I feel like I should just keep them both locked inside the house. She has been through way too much. We've all been through too much."
In honor of Casey, a former EUHS waterpolo player, friends of the family organized the first Casey LeeAnne Goodwin Memorial Waterpolo Tournament held on Sept. 13 at the EUHS pool. Lynne said something similar may be done for Kyle, but no plans will be made until after the family has answered all the questions that remain.
Remembrances may be made to the Kyle Goodwin Memorial Fund P.O. Box 601 Exeter, CA 93221. On-line condolences may be made at www.caseygoodwin.org.