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Booze ‘coma’ hint in pool party tragedy

Subhanjita Basak had a drink too many and drowned after falling into a shallow pool during a poolside Friendship Day party in Lake Land Country Club in Howrah on Sunday evening, police said on Tuesday quoting her autopsy report.

Doctors who conducted the autopsy found “excessive amounts of alcohol in her system”, investigators said.

“The preliminary autopsy report says she had drowned. It found excessive alcohol in her stomach,” said an officer at Domjur police station.

The autopsy report didn’t quantify the amount of alcohol present in the 24-year-old woman’s system.

Forensic experts said drinking “too much” alcohol could “depress” the central nervous system and make a person virtually comatose. What is “too much” varies from person to person, though.

The person would fail to respond to external stimuli during an alcohol-induced comatose state. Even a swimmer would not be able to swim to safety if she falls into a swimming pool in such a state, the experts explained.

“A comatose person in a swimming pool would be like a baby in a bathtub. The baby would not be able to turn over if he falls face first in the water, unless helped by the mother. The baby would choke and die,” said Amitava Saha, critical care medicine, Ruby General Hospital.

Doctors have identified three stages of intoxication on the basis of rising blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels during a drinking session. “After the initial euphoria, the second stage kicks in and the BAC goes up to 0.15-0.25 per cent (or 150-250mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood). Beyond that level, the comatose stage sets in,” said a professor of forensic medicine.

Doctors stressed that the figures were averages and the actual thresholds could vary from person to person.

A number of factors — such as body type, weight and food intake — affect the rise and fall of a person’s BAC.

A small-built woman could record high BAC during binge drinking, said experts.

Alcohol, the oldest sedative known to humans, was used to perform surgeries before modern anaesthesia was invented or during emergency situations like warfronts where anaesthetics were not available.

The Howrah club had let out the poolside area to a fledgling event management firm, Mellifluous Entertainment, which had organised the party with DJ music, a rain dance and drinks.

Abhishek Singh, the event manager who had taken Subhanjita to hospital after she was found unconscious in the pool, had said the woman was frothing at the mouth when she was pulled out of the water around 7.30pm. She was declared dead at SSKM Hospital.

“The pool is around four feet deep, its depth apparently reduced for safety reasons. Even a non-swimmer will not drown in such a shallow pool if he or she is in a conscious state. We are questioning witnesses to find out how and in which state the woman fell in the pool,” said an officer.

It remained a mystery how nobody noticed Subhanjita in the pool at a party teeming with around 450 people. None of those interrogated could recall seeing her entering the pool or say how long she was in it.

The police have asked the event management firm to produce all the bouncers it had hired for the party. “We will interrogate the bouncers on Wednesday. The bouncers belong to a third party. Some of them should have seen the woman falling into the pool,” the officer said.