A college student who drowned in the Tuckasegee River last month was highly intoxicated, according to toxicology reports that have now been released.
Allen Stanley Brisson, 22, a new graduate from Western Carolina University, had a blood alcohol content of 0.38 percent — more than four times the legal limit to drive and surpassing the danger level for alcohol poisoning.
Brisson made other fatal mistakes when setting out on the Tuckasegee with a group of friends on June 3. He was not wearing a lifejacket, and he was floating in an inflatable pool chair sporting cup holders filled with alcoholic beverages.
“We hope to make this a teachable moment,” said James Jackson, owner and manager of Tuckasegee Outfitters. “Alcohol and water do not mix. If you are on whitewater, be in an appropriate craft and wear a lifejacket.”
Jackson said he and other outfitters do not allow alcohol on their trips, although some will try to hide coolers in bushes downstream to pick up along the way.
Jackson said the pool chair was an inappropriate choice to float on the Tuck since it does not provide stability or maneuverability. Jackson said he would like to see county regulations that require lifejackets for anyone using public put-ins along the river.
Brisson’s body was not found until the next morning following an extensive search operation in the river. His urine was tested for alcohol content as well, and confirmed the levels found in his blood were accurate, according to Sandra Bishop-Freeman, deputy chief toxicologist for the state.
The range for alcohol poisoning varies, depending on things like weight, sex and how often someone drinks, Bishop-Freeman said. But in general, “you are definitely reaching a toxic alcohol level anywhere from 350 to 400 milligrams,” Freeman said.
At a level of 380 milligrams, Brisson’s central nervous system would have been depressed, compromising his ability to function. Interviews with Brisson’s companions by emergency personnel the day of the tragedy indicate he may have been unconscious prior to falling out of the chair.
“To get to 380 milliliters, it takes a lot of drinks,” Bishop-Freeman said.