Second teen dies after drinking racing fuel mixed with Mountain Dew
Source: USA Today
January 26, 2016
A second Greenbrier teen has died and two more received medical treatment after officials said they drank a mixture of Mountain Dew and racing fuel last week.
On Thursday, authorities were called to the Franklin Farms home of 16-year-old Logan Stephenson, who was found dead in his bed.
Within minutes, they were called to a second home, on Cemetery Road, because the boy’s best friend had begun having seizures, Greenbrier Police Chief K.D. Smith said.
Authorities have not released the identity of the second teen, but Smith confirmed Tuesday that the medical examiner’s office had notified his department of the second teen’s death that morning. The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office also released a statement Tuesday confirming the second teen’s death.
Spokesman Ryan Martin said the boy died Monday afternoon, and the Sheriff’s Office was notified later that same day.
“We ask that everyone continue to pray for both of these families as they go through this tragic time,” Sheriff Bill Holt said in the department’s Tuesday release.
Since Stephenson’s death, two other teens have come forward, claiming they drank a similar substance, Smith said.
Four cases from Robertson County have been recorded with the Tennessee Poison Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, according to medical director Dr. Donna Seger.
Two of the teenagers were treated and released from two different emergency departments, Seger said.
Both teens said they had consumed a mixture of Mountain Dew and racing fuel, she said.
“They thought they knew what it was, that it was a substitute for alcohol,” Seger said. “They thought they would get the same effects as alcohol, but they weren’t aware of how toxic it was.”
Racing fuel, used in drag racing, is made up of almost 100% methanol, a non-drinkable form of alcohol used for industrial and automotive purposes, Seger said.
Initially, methanol can give the same effects as ethanol, which is used in the production of alcoholic beverages, but over time, it can result in symptoms ranging from blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea to seizures, blindness, coma and death, depending on the amount and concentration of the methanol that was consumed, Seger said.
The investigation into the deaths of Stephenson and his best friend are ongoing. Police have not confirmed whether the boys had actually consumed the substance pending autopsy reports from the medical examiner’s office, Smith said.
The rumors “are deeply disturbing and harmful to the families that are already going through a tragic time of loss,” the release said.
Methanol is extremely poisonous and as little as two tablespoons can be deadly to a child, according to the National Institutes of Health website.
About two to eight ounces can be deadly for an adult, and the success of treatment is often determined by how much poison a person swallowed and how soon he or she received medical attention, the website says.
Heath workers are not aware of how prevalent Dewshine consumption is among Tennesseans, Seger said.
“These two deaths have brought it to our attention,” she said. “We have to try to make sure that adolescents are aware of the toxicity. Kids usually communicate more among themselves, and we need to make more kids aware of this, statewide.”
Health officials at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have notified the Department of Health about the situation, Seger said.
She also said she was not aware of any other cases involving Dewshine consumption outside of Tennessee.
Meanwhile, investigators urged community members to stop posting rumors about the case on social media sites, according to the release from the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office.
Robertson County Schools have been closed since before Stephenson’s death because of inclement weather, but Schools Director Mike Davis said Tuesday that the system was planning to have extra counselors at Greenbrier High School when the students resume classes.
“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the parents and family members of these young men,” Davis said. “I think we will make the special effort to inform students of the dangers related to the deaths of these boys. We need to be reminding kids to make good choices.”
The Stephenson family is collecting funds in Logan’s memory with a GoFundMe page, saying they will use the funds to educate teens and families about substance-abuse dangers.