Alcohol-related Drownings – Preventable Deaths

drinking at a bar

Picture a group of young men or women going out on a winter’s evening. They’re going to have dinner and then hang out at a bar for a while. Maybe there’s a lot of people they know at the bar and they stay longer than they planned. There’s a lot of alcohol flowing. It gets late and a few people start to leave. One young man knows he’s too drunk to drive home so he sets off to walk the mile or so home. But he never arrives. The police are involved a day later and they don’t find him anywhere. It’s a mysterious loss until weeks later, someone finds his body in a frozen pond. He was so disoriented that he wandered into a park, tumbled into the pond and was too cold and disoriented to rescue himself.

This was what happened to Adam Falcon of St. Lawrence University. It also happened to Ricky Gonzales of the University of Wisconsin. He drowned in a river with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .19, more than twice the legal limit for driving. Less than a year later, another University of Wisconsin student named Michael Philbin died the same way, with a similar BAC. Franco Garcia of Boston College disappeared in February and was found in a nearby reservoir in April. Scot Radel died in the Mississippi River with a BAC of .215. Lucas Homan also died in the Mississippi but his BAC was .32. Young women can also lose their lives this way. Amy Ryan of South Florida died after unwisely diving in an underwater cavern after drinking. Her BAC measured at .159.

The World Health Organization released a report on drowning deaths and how they can be prevented. Calling the number of preventable deaths “intolerable,” the report states:

“Among adolescents and adults, a leading cause of drowning is alcohol consumption while engaging with water.”

There are, unfortunately, many more examples of drowning due to alcohol. All of the deaths noted were taken from one compilation of college student deaths. It’s very doubtful that any of these people would have suffered drowning deaths if they had not been drunk.

It can’t even be said that a person who has been drinking should avoid bodies of water. Most of these people were just trying to get home after being out drinking and probably never even realized they were near water.

Who is at Greatest Risk?

two drunk men at a bar

The two groups at the greatest risk of dying due to alcohol-related drownings are those who don’t realize the risk they are taking by drinking to excess and those who have no control of their drinking. The first group could be educated into drinking moderately. Just for comparison, a 170-pound male who was drinking for four hours would need to consume six beers and four shots of hard liquor to have a BAC of .171. All these BAC were higher than that which means these young people were drinking heavily.

The second group, alcoholics who have lost the ability to control their drinking, are at risk every time they pick up a bottle. The solution that could save the lives of these people is an alcohol rehab program. Families watching someone kill themselves slowly with alcohol should not hesitate to get the person into rehab, even if it requires bringing in an interventionist to make it happen.

It is said that the only three outcomes of addiction are death, prison or sobriety. Unfortunately, this is all too true. The right time to get someone to rehab is now, not later after they have had the chance to cause permanent damage to themselves or someone else. If they die in an alcohol-related accident like the ones listed here, the family has missed that chance to save them forever.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.