By Kimberly Miller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
As students anticipate another spring break, police in Lake Havasu City Ä this year's location for MTV's annual Spring Break show Ä are gearing up for the onslaught of partying that left two UA students dead last year.
"MTV's coming this year is going to affect us a lot," said Sgt. James Myers of the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department. "We've got contingency plans, emergency plans and all sorts of beefed-up security. We're expecting an enormous crowd."
Last year Geoffrey Barnes, a 23-year-old University of Arizona business major and assistant rugby coach, and Anthony J. Switzer, also 23 and a recent UA graduate, died while vacationing at Lake Havasu over spring break.
Barnes was killed while cliff-diving at Copper Canyon, a popular spring break spot. He apparently jumped off a rock and landed face first in the water, coming to the surface once but disappearing again moments later. Copper Canyon has cliffs 60 feet high in areas.
Five days later Switzer suffered fatal injuries after he fell two stories from a hotel balcony. Witnesses said Switzer was running along a second-story walkway at the Pioneer Hotel when he ran into a guardrail and fell to the concrete below.
Police reports stated Barnes and Switzer had consumed alcoholic beverages prior to the accidents.
Sally Fertini, executive producer of MTV's Spring Break in Lake Havasu show, said she knew about the deaths and hopes that by offering alcohol-free activities similar accidents this year can be avoided.
"We provide activities that keep kids entertained throughout the day," Fertini said. "There's not really a lot to do in Lake Havasu but boat around and drink, so hopefully, us being there will get people off the water and into our sanctioned events. The way we structure things takes kids away from destructive behavior and directs them toward constructive and fun events."
She said all spring-break towns have problems regardless of whether MTV is there.
"You have to realize that every city has this problem," Fertini said. "We realize that negative incidences happen and whatever happens is going to be our fault whether it really is or not. But we have private security that does a very tight crowd control."
MTV has 45 security officers of their own who monitor all MTV-sanctioned events and are working closely with local law enforcement. All activities are alcohol-free and anyone who appears intoxicated is not allowed in.
Lieutenant Mike Reynolds of the Lake Havasu City Police Department said he spoke with officers from San Diego, last year's mid
MTV Spring Break spot, who commended MTV's security.
"I've talked with people in San Diego and they said MTV security is top-notch and that we shouldn't have any trouble in MTV events," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said police arrest between 300-400 people during spring break and 90 percent are alcohol related. He said he didn't think there would be an increase in alcohol problems because of MTV's presence.
"MTV is coming here to put on a show," Reynolds said. "They're not coming to film a bunch of drunks. That just wouldn't look good for them."
Scott Acord, an MTV publicist, said problems with drinking happen in the towns where MTV does Spring Break but never in a sanctioned event.
"The things that happened in Lake Havasu last year were mainly because of drinking," Acord said. "It was a spring break atmosphere like any other, where people were just kind of going insane. It's always a frenzied atmosphere. And that's something you can't police."
Acord said MTV is going to Lake Havasu looking for a different atmosphere.
"We wanted to try Lake Havasu this year because it really seems to be becoming a more popular spring break place," Acord said. "We didn't want to go to San Diego or Daytona again because I don't think the energy was right anymore. We're just looking for a new spot."
Besides increasing security, Lake Havasu has formed a spring break task force that produces a spring break safety pamphlet that outlines dangers, like cliff diving and operating a boat while intoxicated
Betsey Hoyt, a member of the task force and manager for the Lake Havasu vistor and convention center, said drinking is inevitable at spring break spots.
"Mostly kids come here because it's gorgeous," Hoyt said. "They want to get a tan, they want to meet people, they want to have fun. And most likely they drink in the process."
She said the best the city can do is warn students of area dangers and hope they realize the consequences of their actions.
"It's like putting a warning on a pack of cigarettes," Hoyt said. "You can warn people but they're going to do it anyway.
"I just hope students, when they come here, have a great time," Hoyt said. "But I hope that they recognize the dangers, and this is going to sound like your mother, but just because everyone else is cliff-diving doesn't mean you have to."
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