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January 9, 2013

A decade later, accident's pain remains

Infamous drunken-driving accident spurs Port mother's book

He was the boy who walked her home — the boyfriend of Trista Zinck — who was lucky to survive being struck by a drunken teen driver in an accident that claimed the life of his 16-year-old sweetheart on Jan. 7, 2003.

That’s how 17-year-old Neil Bornstein came to be known to peers for his final year at Newburyport High School, in the wake of a horrific accident that occurred a decade ago this week.

But according to the recently released memoir “Crash,” penned by his mother, Carolyn Roy-Bornstein, the outgoing theater kid with a quick wit and great sense of humor didn’t feel lucky in those early days following the accident, and has fought hard to bounce back from injuries sustained that fateful night, 10 years ago.

“Five days after the accident, he asked me to bring Trista to visit him and that’s when we had to tell him she’d died,” said Roy-Bornstein. “He pulled the blanket over his head and said, ‘I don’t want to get up anymore.’ He refused physical therapy. He refused to eat. He wouldn’t get out of bed. He just shut down.”

And it didn’t get much easier from there, as Neil struggled for years to overcome the effects of traumatic brain injury that stole his light and diminished his academic and social abilities. On the 10-year anniversary of the accident, Roy-Bornstein says her son has only recently begun to exhibit some of the lightness that marked his life before the crash.

The accident on that snowy stretch of Ferry Road near the Interstate 95 overpass was a watershed moment for Newburyport. It sent shockwaves of grief and anger throughout the city, and led to a renewed commitment in Newburyport to preventing teen drinking. Authorities pushed hard to trace the source of the illegally procured alcohol and to punish those involved.

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