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Exeter accident victim mourned


Suspected drunken driver hit organizer of sober grad events

By Kerri Ginis
The Fresno Bee

(Published Friday, March 14, 2003, 5:09 AM)




Casey Goodwin knew the dangers of drinking and driving.

She organized sober-graduation programs at Exeter Union High School and was an active member of Friday Night Live -- a youth development program that encourages teens not to drink and drive.

Now family members and friends are asking how Goodwin could have become the latest victim of a suspected drunken-driving crash. The 20-year-old Exeter resident was killed Wednesday night near Kettleman City.

"She was just too young," said her father, Reed Goodwin. "She was cheated out of life."

Casey Goodwin, a liberal arts major at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, was on her way home to Exeter for the weekend to celebrate her mother's birthday when a 1999 Honda Civic plowed into her car on Highway 41 just south of Quail Avenue.

The driver, 18-year-old Fernando Ochoa of Stratford, was arrested at the scene and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, said California Highway Patrol officer Mike Jones. He was taken to Hanford Community Medical Center with major injuries.

Goodwin was airlifted to University Medical Center in Fresno, where she died.

"It was not an accident," said her mother, Lynne Goodwin, an alcohol-prevention specialist for Tulare County. "Someone chose to drink and drive."

Family and friends gathered Thursday at the Goodwin home in Exeter to share stories about Casey. They cried and laughed as they remembered the popular, outgoing brunette.

Casey Goodwin graduated from Exeter High in 2000. She was an avid swimmer and member of the school's water polo team. She was active in leadership programs and community service activities and was a member of the homecoming court her senior year.

Many who knew Goodwin described her in one word -- perfect.

"She had a great, bubbly personality," said her best friend, Robin Crookshanks.    "She was always where you wanted to be."

Goodwin loved children, and family members said she wanted to be a teacher. She planned to transfer to California State University, Fresno, next year, so she could be closer to her family.
 "Really, what she wanted was to come back here and be a teacher," her aunt Laura Preciado said.

Goodwin had a close relationship with her three younger siblings -- Christopher, 18; Kyle, 15; and Kellie, 13. She usually came home to visit her family at least once a month, especially when someone was having a birthday or her sister was playing in a basketball game.

She made the family put up their Christmas tree early so she could be there when they decorated it.

"We were the only family on the block who had their Christmas tree up on November 26," Lynne Goodwin said.

Magdalena Vasquez, a counselor at Exeter High, remembers Casey Goodwin was always discouraging others from drinking and driving. Goodwin helped organize a program where the school simulated a drunken-driving crash and students played the victims.

"For us here today, it's been a big cloud over our school to think of the irony of it that she would go this way," Vasquez said. "No one can prepare for something like that."

She said she will never forget Goodwin's beautiful smile and cheerful personality.

"She didn't pass you in the hall without saying hello. She was just that kind of kid."

Jim Kooler, administrator for the California Friday Night Live Partnership, said Goodwin was an amazing woman who was a role model for many young people.

Goodwin held many leadership roles in the program and spent this past summer interning for Friday Night Live, which formed in 1984 as a drunken-driving prevention program.

"Casey was a shining example of what Friday Night Live is all about," he said. "It's just devastating that one of our key young people in the program would be taken this way."
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