Union disputes patrol's assertion trooper was drunk
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A state trooper who authorities said was legally drunk when the patrol car he was driving crashed with a pickup, killing himself and two others, hadn't purchased alcohol before the accident, his union said.
Receipts show that Joshua Risner did not buy alcohol during dinner with his wife before his shift or at a gas station while buying a sandwich, the Ohio State Troopers Association said.
In addition, the union says three troopers and a deputy sheriff do not believe Risner was intoxicated when they met with him during his last shift.
The State Highway Patrol had no comment on the union's assertions, Sgt. Jon Payer said.
The patrol said last week that tests showed Risner had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the level a person is considered drunk under Ohio law.
Neither Risner's passenger, Sgt. Dale Holcomb, nor the other driver who was killed, Lori Smith, had been drinking before the crash Sept. 28 near Gallipolis in southeastern Ohio, the patrol has said.
The patrol is investigating where and when Risner drank alcohol.
Herschel Sigall, a lawyer for the troopers union, said Wednesday that the patrol should have investigated before announcing autopsy results. The union claims Risner's blood-alcohol content may be largely attributable to alcohol created by his body as it decomposed.
"There was a rush to judgment in the absence of acquiring facts," Sigall said.
The union plans to hire a toxicologist to review the autopsy and blood-alcohol test results. http://www.columbusdispatch.com/news-story.php?story=221800
GALLIA COUNTY CRASH
Trooper had drunk alcohol, autopsy says
By Randy Ludlow
The Columbus Dispatch
Tuesday, October 24, 2006 11:11 PM
The fiery collision burned out a patrol cruiser and a pickup truck. Two troopers inside the cruiser and a woman driving the truck were killed.
The alcohol found in the body of Trooper Joshua Risner was consumed before he died and not created by decomposition, an autopsy has concluded.
State Highway Patrol Sgt. Dale Holcomb and Vinton resident Lori Smith also died Sept. 28 when a cruiser driven by Risner spun backward into the path of Smith's pickup truck.
The autopsy fixed Risner's blood-alcohol content at 0.08 percent — the level at which a driver is presumed drunk in Ohio — and the alcohol level in urine from his bladder at 0.07 percent.
Based on statements from officers who detected no signs of intoxication in Risner, the troopers union argues that he was not drinking. The union suggests that the alcohol came from decomposition during the 60 hours before the autopsy.
But the autopsy, obtained by The Dispatch, concluded that the absence of glucose — sugar — in his urine showed that Risner consumed alcohol before the wreck.
The autopsy report by Kent Harshbarger, Montgomery County deputy coroner, notes that alcohol can form in blood after death.
However, he wrote that research has not shown significant amounts of alcohol in urine after death without the accompanying presence of glucose, which was absent from Risner's urine.
"Therefore, it is my opinion, the (alcohol) results represent true premortem presence within the blood as it had been filtered into the urine contained in the bladder," Harshbarger wrote.
State Highway Patrol officials declined to comment yesterday on the autopsy findings as they continue to investigate where and when Risner, 29, might have drunk alcohol.
The Ohio State Troopers Association has hired a toxicology expert to review Risner's autopsy but has not yet obtained the report, said Herschel Sigall, the union's lawyer. But, the union firmly believes that Risner was not drinking, he said.
Larry Tate, a 21-year forensic pathologist with the Franklin County coroner's office who later retired from Ohio State University Medical Center, reviewed Risner's autopsy results for The Dispatch.
Tate said it was "very likely" that the trooper consumed alcohol before he died because there was no sugar in his urine to interact with bacteria and create alcohol after he died.
Similar tests on Holcomb, 45, and Smith, 32, whose autopsies were conducted about 24 hours before Risner's, showed no alcohol in their bodies.
Witness statements released yesterday show a horrifying accident scene shortly before 6 a.m. on Sept. 28.
A boom rattled the walls of the ambulance station along Jackson Pike. The workers figured it was thunder amid the pre-dawn rain.
Then they looked 100 yards away and saw the flames. Some of the crew members sprinted down the road while others climbed into two ambulances.
Inside her burning truck, Smith screamed for help.
The crews from Life Ambulance tried to douse the fire with an extinguisher. But the flames and subsequent explosions repelled rescue attempts. Her voice stopped within minutes.
"We could not get any closer than 20 feet," Jerry Stout, one of the ambulance-crew members, told a trooper. "We stood by helpless and could not do anything to help them."
The Gallia County coroner, Daniel Whiteley, previously said that Holcomb died almost instantly. He said Risner, likely unconscious from his injuries, died of smoke inhalation, burns and trauma. firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/news/15842666.htm
Autopsy: Trooper drank alcohol before fatal crash
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A state trooper who caused a crash that killed himself and two others drank alcohol before he died, refuting his union's contention the alcohol formed as his body decomposed, an autopsy found.
Trooper Joshua Risner's blood-alcohol level was 0.08 percent, the level a person is considered drunk under Ohio law. In addition, the alcohol level in urine from his bladder was 0.07 percent.
The absence of glucose in his urine showed that Risner consumed alcohol before the crash, according to the autopsy obtained by The Columbus Dispatch.
Research has not shown significant amounts of alcohol in urine after death without the accompanying presence of glucose, Kent Harshbarger, the deputy coroner in Montgomery County, wrote in the autopsy.
The State Highway Patrol previously announced that tests showed Risner had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent. Neither Risner's passenger, patrol Sgt. Dale Holcomb, nor the other driver who was killed, Lori Smith, had been drinking before the crash Sept. 28 near Gallipolis in southeastern Ohio, the patrol has said.
The Ohio State Troopers Association doesn't believe Risner had been drinking and has suggested the alcohol came from decomposition during the 60 hours before the autopsy.
The union claims receipts show that Risner did not buy alcohol during dinner with his wife before the crash or at a gas station while buying a sandwich. The union also has said three troopers and a deputy sheriff did not believe Risner was intoxicated when they met with him during his last shift.
The union has hired a toxicology expert to review the autopsy but has not yet obtained it, lawyer Herschel Sigall.