Charged with suspicion of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle

Just as they have for the past several summers, Shawn Swanson and his buddies from St. Paul Johnson High School headed to northwestern Wisconsin for a weekend of boating, fishing and hanging around the bonfire.

On Saturday night they took up car surfing — and it cost the 21-year-old Swanson his life and leaves one of his friends facing the prospect of going to prison…

The 21-year-old driver was arrested on suspicion of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. He was released from jail after posting bond Monday and awaits charges.

My last text to [Shawn] before he left was don’t do anything dumb . . . I told him I love him, have a good time and be safe,” said Swanson’s mother, Renee, before sending him on his way to “the highlight of every summer with him.”

Shawn Swanson was on his stomach atop the SUV — his four friends below inside — and they were “going faster than they should’ve been,” his mother said, when he fell off and hit his head on the pavement…

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that its analysis of news media reports identified 58 car-surfing deaths and 41 people injured in the United States from 1990 to August 2008. The agency added that most of the car-surfing reports came from the Midwest and the South, and most involved males and those ages 15 to 19.

The usual problem with Darwin Award candidates can’t be avoided. The victim was a nice kid on his way to a holiday weekend with his best friends. Doesn’t make the risk to his life any less – nor the deadly result.

  1. duh365 says:

    Sad what can happen when kids are bored.

  2. Sea Lawyer says:

    I’m all for stupid people killing themselves off. Given our modern use of technilogy to ensure that every deformed and defective mess that leaves the womb lives, we still need some mechanism to keep the gene pool from completely degrading.

    • kerpow says:

      Good ole technilogy.

    • Proud Alien says:

      I guess you never were a kid, were born an a-hole and a jerk.

      • Raintree says:

        No, this is just natural selection at work. It doesn’t have to require understanding to still function correctly, shit happens. Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.

  3. Scott M. says:

    It may sound terse, but this is to be expected.
    Release the poor sap. He has to live with this memory and the public shame for the rest fo his life. Save the taxpayers the trial, lockup, rehab expenses.

    • jpfitz says:

      I’m with you on this. Stupid kids do stupid things. He will have the pain of this forever. No need to punish the family of the driver. We all did stupid activities when young and impulsive.

      Hell, back in the 70’s I “borrowed” my Dad’s 65′ dodge station wagon and drove to the school behind our home when my parents went out one night. Some of the neighborhood kids jumped on the roof and held onto the roof rack as I drove through the school. I drove not too fast so everyone would stay on. Then I stopped at the entrance to the school and told everybody on the roof to get off because I didn’t want anyone falling off because I was going to drive faster.

      I thought everyone was off but then I saw in my rear view mirror a body rolling on the pavement. I backed up to find the hanger on sitting in the road alright. Lucky for the both of us.

      • msbpodcast says:

        He will have the pain of this forever.

        That’s assuming he actually gives a shit.

        There a lot of psychopaths in this world who don’t. (Look at the average CEO and you’re likely to find someone who’d find some way to point the finger at his victim to begin with.)

        • jpfitz says:

          mspod, you’re right about the psychopathic individual. I know of at least two I have met in my life, not nice people, but know how to play the game of life real well.
          Maybe the MMPI test would ferret out of him any tendencies towards psychopathic behavior. I took the test and was deemed fine, but that don’t mean I’m not CRAZY.

    • UncDon says:

      Wisconsin is a “truth in sentencing” state. If convicted, he will serve 100% of his sentence without early release, and then have a big chunk of that time on parole — essentially the rest of his life he doesn’t get a life sentence.

      No death penalty in Wisconsin, though many people are begging for one (mostly the fun-damn!-mentalists).

  4. I’m with Scott M. on this one. His debt will be paid in loss and regret.

    • Dallas says:

      yeah sure. We the people sentence you to years of loss and regret. It doesn’t work. The conviction is part of the tragedy.

      • jpfitz says:

        My niece hit a 20yo young man as he crossed a four lane hwy, at night in moderate traffic. She was not at fault. He jumped out from the front of a car in the left turn lane where there is a median. My niece hit him at 50 to 60 mph and was not on the phone or under the influence.

        The pain she is going through is almost a punishment, let’s say a lifetime sentence of guilt and a fear of driving. This one split instant in time has affected most of our family. Not to mention the young man’s family. Jail time may not be the answer in every case of accidental death.

        • Dallas says:

          I understand what you’re saying but the distinction between an accident due to a crime and an accident due to an accident needs to be made.
          Otherwise, the idea behind crime and punishment becomes not only weak, but also unfairly applied.

  5. spsffan says:

    I really don’t see a crime here at all, except drunk driving. The dumb shit that got up on the roof and fell off committed suicide by stupidity. Nothing more.

    • What? says:


      The dumb thing is that people, even adults, think it is legal to drink in the US. It is not. It is legal to buy alcohol, but not to drink it.

      Prohibition was ended on buying, not drinking.

  6. Dallas says:

    If he broke the law ( he did), then haul his ass to jail. It’s part of the tragedy. If might keep one other foolish organ donee from doing the same thing.

  7. Airsick says:

    There are two things we should learn from this lesson:
    1. Drinking kills people.
    2. SUVs kill people.
    Ban liquor. Put seatbelts on the roofs of SUVs. Then we can sleep easy.

  8. Casting Stones says:

    Easy to be the one to say “throw him in jail!” Or blame genetics . Good Lord! Kids do stupid things! Haven’t you? Can you imagine how ALL of the these young men are feeling? Putting yourself in this situation is the first step to proper judgement.
    Most of my rage is at those who believe this is a case of Darwinism or genetic fortune. That’s ironic, if not hypocritical at best.

  9. JS says:

    … and the last few words to his friends were probably “Hey y’all – watch this!” (or, since it was the Mid-west, more like “Hey guys – watch this!”)

  10. Guyver says:

    The usual problem with Darwin Award candidates can’t be avoided. The victim was a nice kid on his way to a holiday weekend with his best friends. Doesn’t make the risk to his life any less – nor the deadly result.

    Interesting display of “compassion” after awarding him the Darwin award.

    Too bad some in our society think we need bigger government to help curb the issuing of the Darwin Award.

    • Casting Stones says:

      Big Government is to blame? Really? Get a grip and hold on, Dude.

  11. ECA says:

    1. its already against the law..
    2. someone should SHOW the problem physics of Car surfing..REALLY there is nothing to hang onto, on a slippery surface..
    3. 4-6 people per year die?? REALLY this is NATIONAL NEWS??
    this is IDIOT NEWS.. this is as bad as the Halloween candy scare of 40 years ago…NOW everyone will think its happening EVERYWHERE..

  12. dcphill says:

    And the guy on top, was he not complicit?

  13. soundwash says:

    see now, if he and his mates were taugsoundwas physics early in life/science class, they would have recognized the idiocy of this venture regardless of the alcohol.


  14. noname says:

    Is this “just not news” or what?

  15. B. Dog says:

    Me, I’m from Wisconsin and was raised on car surfing. You pansies can hide in your padded cells until they come for you.

    • msbpodcast says:

      But I bet you never surfed on a moving car. 🙂

      And a moving cheese wagon, or milk container truck doesn’t count. 😛

    • jpfitz says:

      I surfed, on a motorcycle with a helmet. Only the crazy would jump on top of some vehicle and trust the driver below. I’ll stay inside the moving vehicle, thank you.

    • UncDon says:

      I’m from Wisconsin and never heard of car surfing. And I bet I’m a lot older than you.

      • Uncle Dave says:

        Before I moved from WI, I knew a girl who had done it and fell off, cracking her skull. She had a metal plate in her head and was convinced she would be dead by age 25.

  16. Donald Adams says:

    It was God’s will.

  17. bobbo, atheists in charge could not make the church look any worse says:

    I thought car surfing was when the driver gets out of the car and on the roof? Lots of them on YouTube.

    Is it correct to criminalize behavior if 50% of voting citizens don’t see it as such? Like perhaps this situation?

    I thought Guyver in his normal thoughtful habit was going to ask my question, but maybe he is more thoughtful than I am? To whit: “The usual problem with Darwin Award candidates can’t be avoided. The victim was a nice kid on his way to a holiday weekend with his best friends. Doesn’t make the risk to his life any less – nor the deadly result.” /// What does this mean? “Sounds” compassionate I guess as Guyver takes it to be. ….. ok….. I can add a few words and make it make sense but is that the same sense initially intended? I don’t know. Another one of those problems that will always be with us?

    It is the type of behavior that makes for an excellent grunt though.

  18. orchidcup says:

    This is how humans learn.

  19. greyangel says:

    Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can’t help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime: the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.

    Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love


    I consider it a particularly insidious disease in our society that we think we can legislate against stupidity. Just goes to show…

  20. GregAllen says:

    I admit it. I did stuff this stupid… sober! Lots of times.

    Not “car surfing” specifically but dangerous, stupid stuff:

    Jumping off bridges. Riding on bumpers. Exploring utility tunnels. Hitchhiking everywhere. Skiing off cliffs. Trespassing onto airport runways, etc.

    (I should add that I was pretty-much done before 21, though)

    C’mon! Won’t anyone else admit this?

    • Dan says:

      Yup that was my pre-21 lifestyle.It’s all fun and games until someone dies.

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  22. jodhpurs says:

    “Will has always been the brighter burning star, the one to catch attention — but Jem is a steady flame, unwavering and honest. He could make you happy.”


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