Alcohol, cocaine found in drowning victim's system
Acute alcohol intoxication and cocaine use are believed to have contributed to the accidental drowning of a college student on the Sacramento River over the Labor Day weekend.
The toxicology report for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Brett Olson, 20, revealed that his blood alcohol level was .28 at the time of his death on Sept. 2. Decomposition may have pushed that up from .25, said Glenn County Sheriff-Coroner Larry Jones.
Jones said the cocained was used “near the time of his death.”
The autopsy revealed the contents of his stomach was empty, making the effects of the alcohol more profound. Moreover, the combination of the cocaine – a nervous system stimulant – and alcohol – a depressant – reduces the body’s ability to function normally.
“It is a recipe for disaster,” said Jones.
Jones and Glenn County Undersheriff Rich Warren drove to Fairfield Tuesday afternoon to give the results to Olson’s parents at the Solano County Sheriff’s Office.
Michael and Liz Olson spent a week following Olson’s disappearance scouring the Chico area for their son, but their hope for his safety was dashed one week later when his body was found by a fisherman two miles downstream from Scotty’s Boat Landing on the Butte County side of the Sacramento River.
Jones is meeting today with California State University, Chico officials and other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies about the Labor Day float, which has escalated from a few hundred people 10 to 15 years ago to more than 10,000 mostly underage college students – many of those from Chico State.
Jones and other agencies again hope to propose an alcohol ban on the river during major holidays in a effort to either curb participation or cut down on drinking.
Alcohol has been the primary factor for most accidents, fights and near drownings during the event, Jones said.
Law enforcement assisted 124 people on the river and rescued 63 people from the water on Sept. 2, the largest float day of the weekend.
Olson’s was the first death associated with the float, although many near drownings have occurred over the years that required extreme lifesaving measures, Jones said.
The cost to the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office for patrol and rescue in connection with the float was about $30,000, Jones said.
“That is just for Glenn County,” Jones said. “It does not include volunteer hours, ambulances, fire departments and all the other agencies. It’s a horrendous figure.”
State Park, Butte County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, California Fish and Game, Hamilton City Fire Department and other search and rescue organizations also assisted in policing the river.
Olson, a Lafayette resident, was in Chico that Sunday to celebrate Labor Day weekend with friends.
He and two others safely floated to an area known as “Beer Can Beach” in the same raft, but the investigation eventually revealed it is unknown if Olson actually made it out of the water.
Jones said his friends said they had last saw him standing up in the water.
“It’s unknown if he fell back into the water or tried to get back on the raft,” Jones said. “It would be pure speculation.”
Jones does believe the moment of arrival at the beach is the last confirmed sighting.
Early in the investigation a young woman reported that she believed she met Olson and spoke to him on the beach around 4 p.m., but Jones said that sighting cannot be confirmed.
Olson’s disappearance mobilized an extensive search and awareness effort with his family and the Chico community reaching thousands of people through social networking sites.