Drinking methanol deadly, inquiry told

There was no indication that a Red Deer man was suffering from drinking methanol when he was arrested by police and eventually placed in the Red Deer Remand Centre, a fatality inquiry heard on Monday.

There was no indication that a Red Deer man was suffering from drinking methanol when he was arrested by police and eventually placed in the Red Deer Remand Centre, a fatality inquiry heard on Monday.

Boris Leon Marianych, 51, was found unresponsive in his cell at the centre on Feb. 20, 2007.

Dr. Peter Singer, deputy chief toxicologist for the Alberta Medical Examiners’s Office, told the inquiry before provincial court Judge Bert Skinner that the common means of ingesting methanol is drinking window washer fluid.

Const. Veronique Blanchet of city RCMP testified she arrested Marianych about 5 p.m. on Feb. 19, 2007, at an apartment where she had been directed to accompany two other officers investigating the possible death of another man.

Marianych, she said, was wanted on outstanding warrants for assault and failing to appear in court.

Blanchet said she observed Marianych for several minutes and he appeared fine.

She said he displayed no signs of impairment, was steady on his feet, obeyed commands and she had no difficulty understanding him. Civilian guard Diane Briers said she didn’t think Marianych was ill or had a health issue.

“When he left (for the remand centre), he seemed fine,” Briers said.

She had kept guard of him for about three hours before he was taken to the remand centre about 10 p.m.

Singer said drinking methanol in small amounts is dangerous. It is used in windshield washer fluid and as a general solvent.

He said the methanol gives off little odour but raises the acid level in the body and can blind a person and impair breathing.

“The body can go down quite quickly and death follows in less than an hour,” he said.

Singer said he wouldn’t have been surprised to see Marianych appear normal before the drop off.

“Once the PH (acid) level gets high, it starts chewing up the internal organs and it’s hard to reverse” even under hospital conditions, Singer said.

He said as little as 15 ml of methanol can cause blindness and 50 to 100 ml can cause death.

Marianych’s neighbour and friend Samantha Gunness testified she noticed an odd bottle with blue liquid in it in an apartment shared by Marianych and his friend. Windshield washer fluid is often blue in colour.

Gunness said the ‘mickey size” bottle was just about full when she first saw it but it was down significantly a day or so later.

She asked about the bottle but was told to ignore it.

“Boris said he found it in a dumpster.”

Gunness also testified that Marianych didn’t appear in ill health or intoxicated on the day he was arrested.

The inquiry was called to determine the identity of the deceased, the date, time and place of death, and the circumstances of death.

Once the inquiry is complete, the judge provides a written report.

The judge may make recommendations for the prevention of similar incidents, but can’t make any findings of legal responsibility.

The inquiry is expected to last a few more days.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com