Report: Geneva man who got 2nd chance after fatal crash died from drugs
Three months ago, Michael Szot of Geneva gave a moving speech to Geneva High School students about how his decision to start drinking several years earlier led to him crashing a car while drunk in the summer of 2014, killing two friends.
What students likely didn't know then was that his struggles with drugs were far from over: Two days earlier, he had overdosed on Vicodin.
That was among the findings in the Kane County coroner's report of an investigation into Szot's death in June at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove.
Szot, 23, died of "combined (heroin, fentanyl and diphenhydramine) drug intoxication," according to the report. The coroner has ruled the death an accident. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid; diphenhydramine is a antihistamine.
The report also listed asthma as a contributing factor.
On June 16, a Waubonsee employee found Szot slumped in a library chair, his head touching the floor. School police started CPR and Sugar Grove Fire District paramedics took Szot to Presence Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
Szot's mother had driven him to the campus that morning, then to a random drug test at a DuPage County probation office. Because she had to go back to work, Szot arranged to get a ride back to the campus from a longtime friend, according to an investigation by Waubonsee police and the Kane County sheriff's department that was part of the coroner's report.
The friend told sheriff's deputies that Szot seemed to be under the influence of something and almost fell asleep on the ride. The friend asked whether he should take him home, but Szot still wanted to go to school.
They arrived several hours before Szot was to attend a class. They played a short game of catch, then parted.
According to the sheriff's report, the friend said he suspected Szot had snorted drugs. The friend also said he and others suspected a dealer was delivering drugs to Szot at the store where the friend and Szot worked.
At the May 12 Geneva High School assembly, Szot told juniors and seniors of the fatal consequences of a decision he made the summer before going to college: to start drinking alcohol.
"You can be in the middle of a decision that you don't think is that big," he warned them. "And doing it a second time was a lot easier."
His speech was arranged by two Kane County judges who speak to teenagers about the court system and about the criminal consequences of such decisions as driving while drunk. Szot, a 2011 Geneva High graduate, had spoken earlier that month to students at St. Charles East High School.
That he was not in prison -- prosecutors had sought a 20-year term -- was the result of a DuPage County judge's leniency. At the urging of the families of the victims in the Naperville crash, the judge allowed Szot to attend work or classes during the day and spend the night in DuPage County jail.
Szot told the Geneva students that on the night of the fatal crash, July 19, 2014, he was tired, drunk and high after a night of partying at a downtown bar and knew he shouldn't have been driving. He missed a turn and crashed into a quarry. Szot escaped, but his two friends drowned.
But just two days before that speech, Szot had failed a drug test and later was found unconscious outside the Geneva store where he worked, according to a Delnor Hospital emergency-room physician's report in the coroner's file. A paramedic who was nearby administered aid, and Szot was given Narcan, a drug used to counteract opioid overdoses, before he arrived at the hospital.
The doctor wrote that Szot told him he had snorted crushed-up Vicodin, a narcotic painkiller, and that it was the first time he had done that.
'Did a lot of good'
Despite Szot's tragic end, his May 12 message to students may have had an impact.
Kane County Circuit Judge Clint Hull, one of the judges who organized the talk, said school authorities told him that students appreciated what Szot had told them, especially that it had come from someone who was virtually a peer.
"The feedback was that it was very impactful," Hull said. "Before he died, he did a lot of good."