LaCrosse To Probe Alcoholism After 7th River Death

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Jared Dion, whose Mississippi River drowning prompted spculation about a serial killer in LaCrosse, Wi., had a blood-alcohol content of 0.40, five times the legal standard for drivers and enough to render him unconscious, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. La Crosse Mayor John Medinger said the blood-alcohol level would likely end the widespread belief that a serial killer was roaming the streets, pushing drunken young men into the river. “That is an astronomically high number,” said Medinger, who has asked the city’s Common Council to form a task force to address drinking. “A lot of people are going to ask how he was able to get so drunk.”

Medical Examiner John Steers said autopsy results show that Dion, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student, died of freshwater drowning, with alcohol intoxication as a contributing factor.

Dion’s death, the seventh since 1997 in which a drunken young man drowned in the Mississippi, sparked such widespread belief that a serial killer was in La Crosse’s midst that the police chief held a two-hour town hall meeting April 22 to rebut the rumors. At that meeting a hostile crowd accused police of conducting a slipshod investigation; some believed an officer had pushed the men to their watery deaths. Each of the other six men to drown since 1997 had blood-alcohol levels of between 0.20 and 0.42.

The task force, Medinger said, should be “open-minded and open-ended” and investigate “the whole community readiness to change attitudes…If the City of La Crosse does not acknowledge that we have a drinking problem, nothing we do is going to do any good.”

Link: http://www.jsonline.com/news/gen/apr04/225974.asp

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