Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 30, 2013

Bath salts, alcohol to blame for deaths

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — The untimely deaths of two men last month have been linked to substance abuse.

Effingham County Coroner's Office said in a news release a toxic level of the active ingredient in bath salts was a contributing factor to the Dec. 17 death of David M. Alexander, 48, of Pana.

Alexander had collapsed at the home of an acquaintance in rural north Effingham before being taken to St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital in Effingham, where he was pronounced dead in the emergency room.

The coroner's office reported a Dec. 18 autopsy revealed Alexander died from coronary artery thrombosis. But the report also indicated Alexander had a toxic level of alpha PVP, the active ingredient in bath salts, at the time of death.

Bath salts, not to be confused with legal items that are actually used while bathing, are a drug that has become increasingly popular in the last three years. They can be swallowed, snorted, smoked or injected.

Chief Deputy Coroner Fred Bray said it was not known how Alexander used the salts.

Alexander's death is believed to be the first in Effingham County related to bath salt use.

In the other results released Tuesday, Toby R. Bushue, 37, of Edgewood, died from alcohol toxicity after being found unresponsive at a Farina residence on Dec. 22. An autopsy revealed that Bushue had a blood alcohol concentration of nearly six times the legal limit, well over toxic levels. He was pronounced dead in the St. Anthony's emergency room on Dec. 22.

Bushue was found to have a blood alcohol concentration of .479. A BAC of .08 is the legal limit for intoxication in Illinois.

Bray, who was a police officer for 29 years, said he doesn't remember encountering anyone with that level of alcohol in their system.

"That's really, really high," Bray said. "I've heard stories of people having a .5 in their system, but we always told people that anybody with a level over .3 should seek medical attention."

There were no secondary causes of death listed in the Bushue report.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.