Drunken Driving Crash Shattered Teen's Life

Drunken Driving: Inside the Club

With Rasdall driving, they headed to the outskirts of Tampa, to Ybor City, where historic cigar factories have become teeming bars and nightclubs. At the bar that night, women 18 or older got in for free, while men had to be at least 21 and pay to enter.

The girls hit the dance floor and then, Rasdall claims, a man working at the club waved them over to the bar.

"He asked, 'Are you girls 21? Because it doesn't matter,'" Rasdall said. "He got the bartender's attention, told her to order us a drink, and then he said, 'let's switch to shots -- they're quick, they're fast, no one will even see the cup in your hand, it's in and out.'

"It was a really weird feeling, almost like, well, this guy works here and he's saying it's OK, we're allowed to do this."

All of this is documented in photographs from a camera later found in the destroyed car. Best friends posing, dancing and drinking. Haunting images of life, just hours before death.

At 3 a.m., the two women finally left the club. Rasdall said they didn't think twice about getting in the car. With Rasdall at the wheel, the best friends began the 40-minute drive home.

And then, one mile from Laura's dorm, it happened. The car drove off Interstate 275 and down a hill, crashing into a broad tree. Both women were wearing seat belts.

Rasdall said the next thing she remembers, she woke up in the car on the side of the road.

"I didn't know where I was, who I had been with, I couldn't remember anything," she said. "I saw somebody was sitting in my passenger seat. The person's face was turned away from me. I shook her arm. And deep down I knew the person next to me was dead."

When paramedics arrived Rasdall was screaming and in pain. Rescuers using the Jaws of Life freed her and rushed her to the hospital.

A few miles away, Assistant State Attorney Rohom Khonsari was awakened by his cell phone. Minutes later, he arrived at what was now considered a crime scene. There had been a fatality, and DUI was suspected. Walking down from the highway, Khonsari remembers looking inside the vehicle. Laura Gorman, still in the passenger seat, had died of blunt force trauma to her head.

"My heart dropped," Khonsari told Vargas. "That's the first dead body I've ever seen. You instantly think she's young, she's got a family somewhere right now that doesn't know what just happened. It's a picture that's really hard to let go of." At the hospital, nurses cut off Rasdall's clothes and hooked her up to machines. A large gash crossed the side of her head and her left ear was hanging off.

As she was prepped for surgery, Rasdall heard a police officer talking to her mother. He described a purse that belonged to Gorman. Suddenly Rasdall realized who her passenger had been.

"I was screaming at the top of my lungs," she remembered. "'Not Laura! Why not me! Her parents are going to hate me!' And I was screaming, screaming 'I killed my best friend!'"

Drunken Driving: Victim's Family Blames Driver

It took 400 stitches to put Rasdall's head back together. A blood sample was turned over to law enforcement. Tests showed her blood alcohol content was nearly one-and-a-half times the legal limit, evidence that the crash was the result of DUI.

On the day Rasdall came home from the hospital, Gorman's body was placed in a mausoleum.

To this day, the two families, the Rasdalls and the Gormans, once friends, no longer speak.

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