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Teen hit by suspected drunk driver left brain-dead; additional counselors called to victim's Irvine school

May 31, 2011 |  9:56 am

Northwood
Extra counselors will be on hand Tuesday at the Irvine high school attended by a 14-year-old cheerleader who suffered irreversible brain damage when the car she was in was struck by an alleged drunk driver, a school district spokesman said.

6a00d8341c630a53ef014e88c74419970d-800wi Ashton Sweet, a freshman at Northwood High School, was one of four teenage girls in a late-model Mercedes-Benz driven by one of the girls' fathers early Sunday morning when the car collided with a pickup near the intersection of Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard, police said.

The girls were returning from a birthday party. Sweet was taken to a hospital where, she was being kept on life support Tuesday so doctors could assess whether her organs could be donated.

The other girls in the Mercedes, also students at Northwood High, suffered injuries of varying degrees and were taken to hospitals. One of them, Krista Merassa, 15, was in critical condition, according to the Orange County Register.

As grieving classmates returned to Northwood High after the Memorial Day weekend, their school was grappling with the tragedy.

“In addition to the five counselors already on the school staff, an additional five more will be on hand and others on call if needed,” said Ian Hanigan, a spokesman for the Irvine Unified School District. “We will be reaching out to classmates and friends, and anyone who needs additional support right now.”

The pickup's driver, 26-year-old Austin Farley of Irvine, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and was being held on $1 million bail, according to Irvine police Lt. Henry Boggs, who said Farley’s first court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday.

Farley and his passenger were unhurt.

Sweet was on the school’s cheer squad and track team and also participated in a group that helps students with disabilities, Hanigan said.

In 2009, Farley pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and battery on a police officer or emergency worker, according to the Orange County courts online database.

In 2005, he pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended or revoked license and refusing to submit to a chemical test for driving under the influence.

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Photo: Students at Northwood High School in Irvine head toward campus wearing white in honor of fellow classmate Ashton Sweet, who was gravely injured in an automobile accident. Above right, Ashton, 14. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times / Sweet family


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