Ste. Gen teen who drove into lake was far over alcohol limit

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The toxicology report also found a high level of carbon monoxide in his bloodstream.

STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. -- A toxicology report shows the Ste. Genevieve teenager found dead in his car after drowning in Goose Creek Lake had a blood alcohol level of 0.23, nearly three times the legal limit in Missouri.

Wade Lurk, 17, was reported missing April 1 after attending a party at the lake. A campsite guard saw Lurk's car leave the development at 5:30 a.m. that day. His 1990 Nissan Stanza was fished out of the lake April 17.

Authorities believe Lurk became disoriented or confused and made a wrong turn, went down a private boat ramp and into the lake.

With many local high school graduation celebrations taking place this weekend, area officials are anxious to avoid a repeat of the incident.

"The only safe way to celebrate graduation is without drugs or alcohol," said Sarah Nussbaum, counselor at Jackson High School. "It's good to have parties chaperoned by adults, but it's the wrong message to send that it's OK to drink if they're there. Parents should never condone that activity."

Nussbaum also worries the message that underage drinking is unacceptable loses out to the one telling them not to drink and drive.

Sgt. Barry Hovis of the Cape Girardeau Police Department echoed Nussbaum's warnings.

"You shouldn't be drinking at all if you're under 21, so my advice would be don't drink," he said. "If you do choose to do that, well, then don't drive. Bad things happen when people drink who are under 21, and bad things happen when they choose to drive after they've been drinking."

In the Lurk case, Hovis said, it's important to remember that even though someone has slept for several hours he is not necessarily sober. "If they are at or above the legal limit, it's going to be 10 hours before they're totally sober and probably four to five hours till they reach the legal limit," he said.

Hovis said the most recent research shows blood alcohol levels in a healthy adult diminish by 0.015 every hour the adult doesn't drink. He also noted that for a male weighing 150 pounds on an empty stomach, it takes an average of four drinks over the course of an hour to reach the legal limit.

A can of beer, shot of alcohol and a glass of wine each contain 0.5 ounces of pure alcohol.

Also in the toxicology report, released Thursday, was a finding that Lurk's carbon monoxide level was 30 percent at the time of his death. The percentage is equal to the percentage of hemoglobin in the bloodstream bound to carbon monoxide.

This level, authorities said, was likely due to Lurk spending the night sleeping in an automobile with the engine running. The percentage was not high enough to cause death.

An otherwise healthy heavy smoker can have a carbon monoxide level of up to 9 percent. Hospitalization is recommended for anyone with a level higher than 25 percent.

Officials say those driving old cars without catalytic convertors and cars with faulty exhaust systems risk carbon monoxide poisoning even in open areas.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, confusion and nausea.

tgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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