“The Night He Died: The Harsh Reality of Teenage Drinking,” a personal journey of turning Tragedy into Hope

Tim MooreNews33 Comments


Brian Hoeflinger is proud to introduce his new book titled “The Night He Died: The Harsh Reality of Teenage Drinking, A Neurosurgeon and a Father’s personal journey of turning Tragedy into Hope.”

The book takes you on a journey through both my son’s life as well as portions of my own. You will see through my eyes the shocking events that took place the day of my son’s death as well as live through that unspeakable night and the days, weeks and months that followed. You will glance into the investigation surrounding the sale of hard liquor to my son and his friends the day of his death as well as learn the shocking facts surrounding teenage binge drinking. You will glean into the heart wrenching pain of losing a child as you read through my journals and gain a deeper appreciation for the life you have now and for the loved ones that surround you. Lastly and most importantly, it is my hope that this book will inspire people on many different levels, not only for the betterment of themselves but for the betterment of others as well. The night he died, my son Brian made a mistake and that one mistake cost him his life. That is the harsh reality of teenage drinking. And yet from this tragedy has come guidance and hope for others not to make the same mistake. I hope the life experiences exemplified in this book will bring about positive change for all to benefit from someday and in some small way make the world a better place for all to live in. As Brian once wrote, “Life. One word that means everything to humans. Life is precious, and it is easy to forget that sometimes.” This book is a must read for all Parents and Teenagers alike!

Most of all, Brian hopes that this book will inspire people not only for the betterment of themselves, but for others as well. “The Night He Died: The Harsh Reality of Teenage Drinking, A Neurosurgeon and a Father’s personal journey of turning Tragedy into Hope” will be sold right here at BrianMatters.com and will also be avaiable in digital form as a Kindle eBook.

You can view a preview of the first chapter of the story below.

Soon thereafter, at approximately 11:50, Brian’s car struck a tree in our neighborhood at high speed.
A patrolling police officer was driving by at about that time. He saw a fire in the woods and called it in. As he approached the crash site, he saw Brian’s demolished car on fire.
We spoke to him at Brian’s funeral, and he described the sequence of events as he choked back tears. When he arrived, Brian was unconscious but with a faint heartbeat and barely breathing. His seat belt was on. The officer grabbed a fire extinguisher to keep the fire in the engine compartment at bay until help arrived. As responding units arrived, the officers and paramedics tried to free Brian’s trapped body from the wreckage, but his lower body was stuck because the dashboard and firewall had been pushed into the driver’s seat. Turns were taken with alternating fire extinguishers to keep the increasing fire down. With tears in his eyes and his voice shaking, the officer recalled thinking to himself that he was not going to let this young man die in that car, engulfed in fire.
Finally, five of the responders all pulled at once and freed Brian’s body from the car. As they were moving him to the ambulance nearby, the car exploded and was engulfed in flames. No one else was hurt that night.
Cindy and I were sleeping when our doorbell rang at 1:00 a.m. I sprang out of bed, and when I opened the door, I was confronted with three of Brian’s friends frantically looking for him and wondering if we had seen him. I told them we had not seen Brian since the basketball game.
Cindy came downstairs and asked what was going on. The boys said that they had been at a party hanging out together earlier in the evening and Brian had left angry. They indicated that they had been looking for him for well over an hour and could not find him.
This didn’t make sense. Brian never just “disappeared,” and it would have been very out of character for him to be angry. We both immediately began calling and texting him, but got no response. This was also out of character for Brian, because he always answered calls and texts. My wife had just texted him at 10:30 that night to remind him that he needed to pick up his date’s corsage tomorrow for the turnabout dance and that senior pictures were tomorrow as well. He promptly texted her back as he always did and said he would pick up the corsage and be there for senior pictures.
On one level, we both knew that something was horribly wrong. On the other hand, we still hoped that if we could just figure out where Brian was, everything would be okay. Should we call other parents—in the middle of the night?
As Cindy paced the halls, our phone rang. It was the mother of one of Brian’s friends. She said Brian had been in an accident. I’ll never forget my wife’s response that night as long as I live—the sheer horror and emotion in her voice when she responded, “Oh God, no! Please, no! Not Brian!”
My heart began to race. The woman told us that Brian had been taken to St. Anne’s hospital, a level-three trauma center for minor injuries only. I was the on-call surgeon for neurosurgery trauma that weekend for both St. Anne’s and Toledo Hospital, a level-one trauma center for major life-threatening injuries. I frantically called St. Anne’s ER, my hands trembling, and asked them if my son had been brought there.
There was an uncomfortable pause, followed by the response, “You need to go to Toledo Hospital right now.”
I reiterated, “This is Dr. Hoeflinger, and I want to know what is happening with my son!”
“We can’t tell you anything. You need to go straight to Toledo Hospital.”
At that moment, my whole life changed. I knew Brian must have been in a terrible accident and was severely injured.
I started to hyperventilate, and my body began to tremble uncontrollably. I could barely hold the phone as I called Toledo Hospital’s ER to ask if my son had been brought there. Again there was a deafening pause, after which I was told, “Dr. Hoeflinger, you need to come to the hospital right now.” No details would be given to me……

…..When we arrived back home, I gathered the kids in the kitchen. I felt inhumane for the pain I was about to inflict upon them. I will never forget their reactions as I told them that Brian was dead. Christie started to scream uncontrollably that we were lying to her and it wasn’t true. Julie was initially quiet, but then started to cry, the tears for a brother she would never have again gently falling down her cheeks. Poor Kevin was in shock and wanted to cry but was fighting back the tears to be strong. They were all hurting so badly. The short time watching their reactions to Brian’s death seemed like an eternity. I didn’t know how to protect them from the pain they were experiencing.
As they settled down, we asked each of them if they wanted to go to the hospital to see Brian. All of them said they wanted to go without hesitation. We did not want to deprive them of seeing their big brother one last time, and so we started back to the hospital. The ride to the hospital was somber and surreal. How could this be happening to us?
We soon arrived at the emergency department, and we all went in as a family to see Brian’s lifeless body lying there. The kids initially stared at him, but then slowly started towards him and began to touch his face. I think they were trying to make sure he was real, to convince themselves that this nightmare was actually happening and that this was actually Brian lying there. I could see the pain and agony in their eyes as they looked upon their brother lying there dead. Julie held her hand softly on his forehead and didn’t want to leave him. Christie was a little more timid and wanted to stand by him but not constantly touch him, while Kevin continued to stare at Brian, not really knowing what to do or even feel…..


33 Comments on ““The Night He Died: The Harsh Reality of Teenage Drinking,” a personal journey of turning Tragedy into Hope”

  1. Jessica Haney

    When will this be available to purchase? Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Brian Matters

      Hi Jessica. The book should be ready for purchase in about 2 weeks. I will make another announcement at that time. Thanks.

    1. Brian Matters

      Hi Mary. I’m not finalized on the price yet. It will be no more than an average book of 200 pages.

    1. Brian Matters

      Great thought. I will have to see if the Hospital would allow me to sell it there. If you have any thoughts, let me know.

  2. Patricia Greville Kehoe

    I especially enjoyed the article in this week’s Toledo Free Press. So proud of you and Cindy as you are keeping these important conversations front and center.Appreciate you.

  3. disqus_qLXf1gWyKN

    I will purchase this book as soon as it’s available and I will sit with my 19 year old niece and read it together out loud. I thank you for letting us into you and your family’s deep and unfathomable pain. The short excerpt that I read of your book, “The Night He Died”, was so truly emotional. It seems as though you and your wife have laid everything left in you out for all of us to feel so that we can try to somehow understand what losing Brian has done to your family and hopefully save us from such horrible pain. I know nothing of any of you but I want you to know that I have thought about your son and the entire Hoeflinger family every day since this unimaginable tragedy happened. Still so very sorry.

    1. Brian Matters

      Good news Laura, it is out! brianmatters.com/book-the-night-he-died-the-harsh-reality-of-teenage-drinking/

  4. Fran

    Wow Brian, i can’t even begin to describe how reading this affected me emotionally! I was there just a few weeks later, in your exact situation, not knowing if Amanda would live or die. Thanks to you and many other great doctors, she lived. I’ll never understand why some are taken, and others are allowed to live. My heart cries with yours, and i trust this book is able to reach many! I would love to purchase a copy!

  5. A loving Syl. St. Joe's Mom

    There truly is not a day that has gone by since Brian died, that I have not thought of your family. I have also lovingly thought of Brian as well, although I did not know him personally . My heart simply breaks when I think that you & Cindy have had to face the biggest fear we all have as parents, that our sweet, good child will make a bad decision & put their life at risk. I will buy your book to be inspired by the courage you all have shown, while holding strong in your faith . You have not gone down this road alone….people like me, who you don’t really know, have dropped to their knees & held your family strong in prayer since Brian died.

  6. Lisa W.

    I am a driver’s education instructor and school counselor in Monroe, MI. I will be purchasing this book to read to my students and my own children. Thank you for having the courage to take such a devastating event and turn it in to an educational opportunity.

  7. JTH

    Sorry for your loss. My two cents in these situations, having lost an adolescent sibling when I was 15 and another when I was 17, is:
    do what you need to do to grieve, but refocus your love and attention on your surviving children. It’s too easy for parents to forget to do that, and to emotionally neglect their other kids. Not saying you need this input…

  8. Laura Sams

    Wonderful book. Thank you for sharing your most private feelings of anguish, fear and loss. Also, thank you for opening everyone’s eyes to the every growing epidemic of teenage drinking. I recommend this book to any parent and teenager. Thank you again Hoeflinger family.

  9. Shelly

    I want to thank you and your family for putting this out there. I speak for MADD in SC and am a certified Victim Advocate. We speak once a month to first time offenders. I can not tell you the ones who have come through our program who were not even close to 21. We have them complete surveys at the end and 99% have told us to speak to the high schools. We do speak at the high schools and are branching out to reach out to more in our area. Telling our stories, mine of my daughter who was injured by a drunk driver and my friend who lost her three year old daughter to a drunk driver, helps bring reality to those who think it will never happen to them. I plan to purchase your book and show to our state MADD so that we can help share your story and save a life. God bless you and your family.

  10. Jennifer

    Heart wrenching…as a neuro icu nurse in buffalo I am all too familiar with these stories. I can only imagine the unbelievable heartache you and your family endured. As a mother of three, my oldest 19, I worry constantly about them drinking or making poor choices and I share stories with them of what I see at work in hopes that something might affect them and make them think twice. I will definitely get this book when it becomes available and share it with my children. Thank you for sharing your story.

  11. jane carmack

    i don’t even know what to say Brian i know the pain of loosing a loved one to an accident. i lost my husband almost 4 years ago to a coal mining accident and every second from the phone call to the trip on the way to the hospital,i kept telling myself this cant be true.but after hours of waiting at the hospital i got the news that no one wanted to tell me.he was gone and there was nothing i could do i felt helpless.i have never lost a child and i pray to god that i never have to live to experience that.i feel for you and your family.. god bless you all and i cant wait to hear the rest of your story as much as it hurts. jane carmack..

  12. Autumn

    Nearly two years ago, my 16 year old brother took his own life. I hurt for your family and children. Things like this shouldn’t happen.

  13. Christine Cutshall Cole

    Brian & family…. how to find the right words to express my feelings towards your family tragedy isn’t easy. I grew up in Sylvania and a member of St. Joe’s. I have now lived in Indy for 20+ years. I too have a 17 year old son who sounds just like Brian, a responsible, dependable teenager who has shown to make the right choices, but what if one day he doesn’t??? The fear of every parent you have endured. I remember first seeing an article about your precious son and your incredible words, feelings, and the lessons you & Cindy were willing to share for the benefit of other families to avoid such a loss. I was truly touched by your candid thoughts in the article and to now find out you wrote this amazing book to share. I want you to know that you have my commitment to not only personally buy the book, give to my son, and to share your story with as many parents and teens as I can in the Indianapolis area. I’m truly sorry for your loss and respectfully commend you on the courage you have found to share the heartache & grief your family has suffered with the hopes of saving another teenager!!! From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I will remain steadfast in my prayers for you all and may God’s love continue to surround you and bring further peace and healing to your family.
    Christine Cutshall Cole

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