A Combustible Mix in Ohio

Alcohol and smoking contributed to the fire that killed 3 Miami U. students, an investigation concludes.
April 18, 2005

Law enforcement and health officials have concluded that the fire that killed three Miami University students was set accidentally and that alcohol may have played a role in the students' deaths. All three students had blood alcohol levels well over the legal limit for driving under the influence.

The Oxford, Ohio, fire department said Friday that "smoking materials" -- it did not specify what kind -- had ignited the "combustible components" of a living-room couch in the off-campus home rented by nine Miami students.

"The cause was determined to be an accidental human act," the department said in a news release, and "there was no evidence found during the investigation indicating the cause of the fire is anything other than accidental."
A total of eight students who were in the house at the time of the fire escaped. But the three students who died all had blood alcohol levels "between 0.2 and 0.3," the Butler County coroner,Richard Burkhardt, told reporters at a news conference Friday. The legal limit for driving in Ohio is .08.

"Once you're intoxicated, all of your senses don't work as well. You can't hear as well, you can't see as well, and maybe you can't be aroused as easily," Burkhardt said. "Had they been alert, they would have been maybe more easy to arouse and more able to get out of there."

The coroner's office said that two of the students died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to secondary to smoke inhalation. The third student suffered respiratory burns due to breathing "superheated air."


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