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OSHP: Teen driver was huffing before fatal crash

Published: Wed, August 19, 2009 @ 12:07 a.m.


Christie Manchester


Kaylynn Barco

The commander of the local patrol post called inhaling ‘chemical Russian roulette.’

SOUTHINGTON — Teens trying to get high by inhaling from a can of aerosol dust remover is the likely reason why a fatal car crash occurred on State Road in Champion Township on Aug. 3.

The accident report released Tuesday by the Ohio State Highway Patrol said the driver, Christie Manchester, 17, of Southington, inhaled about four bursts from the can over a short period of time, then got a blank stare on her face, her body became rigid, and the car went off the road and hit two trees.

Manchester was dead at the scene from head trauma, while a second occupant, Ellen Becker, 18, of Struthers, suffered serious injuries and is still hospitalized. The third passenger, Kaylynn Barco, 17, of Southington, was released from the hospital a few days after the 11:37 p.m. accident.

Lt. Joseph Dragovich, commander of the Southington post of the OSHP, described using inhalants such as this — also known as huffing — to be “chemical Russian roulette,” saying the product had a warning right on the can saying inhaling it can “cause instant death.”

The accident went unexplained for several days until a trooper with the highway patrol conducted an interview with Barco after she left the hospital.

Barco said the girls, who knew one another from sports they played together, had intended to ride to Warren that evening for fast food, but Manchester decided to stop at Wal-Mart instead.

Once inside, the girls bought cigarettes, a pack of gum and a can of dust remover manufactured for use on a computer or other electronic device, Barco said.

On the way back to Southington, after stopping at the Speedway gas station in Champion, Manchester stopped the car at the intersection of State and North Leavitt roads, took the can from Becker and inhaled two bursts, Barco said.

At Manchester’s request, Barco said she inhaled one burst from the can but found it unpleasant and spit and coughed the substance back out.

Manchester took the can back and ingested two more bursts. Moments later, Barco noticed that Manchester had a blank stare on her face, so she reached over, put her hand on Manchester’s shoulder and asked her if she was OK.

“She described [Manchester] as having very hard muscles like she was clenching the steering wheel,” the police report said. “The next thing [Barco] knew, they went off the road and hit the trees.”

Dragovich said the highway patrol doesn’t yet know the results of testing on Manchester’s blood. The patrol has said it did not suspect that alcohol or speed played a role in the accident.

The patrol checked with Wal-Mart and confirmed through video and cash-register data that three girls matching the description of Manchester, Barco and Becker had purchased a can of dust remover, cigarettes and gum at a little before 11 p.m. Aug. 3.

Becker has not recovered enough for investigators to interview her, Dragovich said, adding that she remains in the hospital with serious injuries.

Dragovich said the girls were engaged in a number of dangerous behaviors that night, such as there being several young people in the car with cell phones.

“The odds just were not in their favor that night,” Dragovich said.

But using an inhalant is “an extremely dangerous behavior,” he said, no matter whether it occurs in a car or in a closet or any other place.

Manchester and Barco had known each other since they were small, but Becker became friends with the other two in recent years through playing travel softball with Barco. Manchester and Barco were juniors last year at Southington High School. Becker graduated last year from Struthers.


INHALANT DANGERS || Dangers, statistics

Also known as huffing, sniffing, dusting, Glading.

According to national surveys, inhaling dangerous products is becoming one of the most widespread problems in the country.

One British study said that of those individuals who died from inhalant use, 41 percent died the first time they tried it.

Around 100 to 125 inhalant deaths are reported in the United State each year, though more occur that are not identified as inhalant deaths because sniffing doesn’t show up in most toxicology screenings.

More than 1 million people used inhalants to get high just last year. By the time a student reaches the 8th grade, one in five will have used inhalants.

Inhalant use refers to the intentional breathing of gas or vapors with the purpose of getting high. Inhalants are legal, everyday products.

Statistics show that young, white males have the highest usage rates.

Nearly all abused products produce effects similar to anesthetics, which slow down the body’s function. Varying upon level of dosage, the user can experience slight stimulation, feeling of less inhibition or loss of consciousness. The user can also suffer from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. This means the user can die the 1st, 10th or 100th time he or she uses an inhalant. Other effects include damage to the heart, kidney, brain, liver, bone marrow and other organs. Results similar to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may also occur when inhalants are used during pregnancy. Inhalants are physically and psychologically addicting, and users suffer withdrawal symptoms.

If someone you know is huffing, the best thing to do is remain calm and seek help. Agitation may cause the huffer to become violent, experience hallucinations or suffer heart dysfunction which can cause Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. Make sure the room is well ventilated and call EMS. If the person is not breathing, administer CPR.

Treatment facilities for inhalant users are rare and difficult to find. Users suffer a high rate of relapse, and require thirty to forty days or more of detoxification.

For more information, go to www.inhalants.org or contact the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition at 1-800-269-4237.

Inhalant use starts as early as elementary school and is considered a gateway to further substance abuse. Parents often remain ignorant of inhalant use or do not educate their children until it is too late. Inhalants are not drugs. They are poisons and toxins.

Most common inhalants

Adhesives — model airplane glue, rubber cement, household glue.

Aerosols — spray paint, hairspray, air freshener, deodorant, fabric protector, computer keyboard cleaner.

Solvents and gases — nail polish remover, paint thinner, type correction fluid and thinner, toxic markers, pure toluene, cigar lighter fluid, gasoline, carburetor cleaner, octane booster.

Cleaning agents — dry cleaning fluid, spot remover, degreaser.

Food products — vegetable cooking spray, dessert topping spray (whipped cream), whippets.

Gases — nitrous oxide, butane, propane, helium.

Anesthetics — nitrous oxide, ether, chloroform.

Nitrites — Nitrite room odorizers.

Amyl — “Poppers,” “Snappers.”

Butyl — “Rush,” “Locker room,” “Bolt,” “Climax,” also marketed in head shops as “video head cleaner.”

Source: National Inhalant Prevention Coalition


1timOthy(802 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Looks like Drug Education didn't work ! My prayers go out to these Three families who are grieving of their loss. What a shame.

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2binx(81 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

I feel for Manchester's family. This story is just recounting the horror that happened that night. Something NEEDS to be done in the schools/communities, sad cause I believe that D.A.R.E. was removed from the schools, but then again how effective was that program other than a Camaro cop care with D.A.R.E. written on the side?? Time to start showing videos and funerals to these kids... But again, I feel for the parents, siblings, families of these girls...

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3HarveyJayNIPC(1 comment)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Once again we hear for a young person dying from "huffing" and a family and a community must deal and make sense of such a tragedy. A bad choice with unintended consequences. Education and awareness are the keys to inhalant use prevention. I am a director of a national nonprofit agency, the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition. For more information and free resources go to http://www.inhalants.org or call 800/269 - 4237.

Harvey Weiss

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4babs68(58 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Wow...my heart goes out to the family, but I have to wonder what is going on with our youth? Inhalants, weed, heroin, crack, meth..don't let me forget narcotics out of the cabinet. These addictions don't seem to have a color barrier either. It is truely affecting all of our tweens, teens, and youngs adults. We need to start addressing the real problems with these teens and there hidden demons.

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5binx(81 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Diamond- yeah you are right. It is just sad. Teens and even pre-teens can get their hands on so much stuff... then act so selfish and STUPID! Again and I cannot say it enough, I feel so so bad for the families involved.

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6boxerlover(133 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

My thoughts and prayers to the families also. My son is friends with Ellen Becker and to see her like this knowing how beautiful and talented she is, is hard for him. But he stands by her and says that this has influenced a lot of people. Unfortunately, out of tragedy comes some awareness.

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7TB(1167 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

"but I have to wonder what is going on with our youth?"

People have been saying this for milennia. The truth of the matter is that it's the same thing that has always been going on. Kids seeking to get high isn't a new phenomenon. The methods change, but the desire is the same.

Apparently people didn't use drugs before the baby boomers. I guess all that stuff I've read about opium dens and absinthe was simply fiction.

Last summer a close friend died from an inhalant. He locked himself in the bathroom and apparently used it early in the morning, passing out and choking on his own vomit. He was found in the early morning.

He'd been through D.A.R.E. programs and had heard and seen the dangers of drug abuse from adults, family, teachers, and even friends.

People do stupid things. They have for quite some time now.

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8jchamp(2 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

My prayers go out to christie's family for they are dealing with the most lost of their lives, the other families I have my deepest sympathy for but they still have their daughters. Christie was the youngest and the only girl in her family... And I am just upset at Kaylynn's statement, I know these girls not well but enough to have see Kaylynn's facebook page, and about a month ago she had pictures with her and her older brother high as kites from "huffing", so her statement saying she TRIED it that night of the accident and didn't like it is just mind boggling, I understand that she doesnt want to get into trouble, but telling the truth for ALL families is the right thing to do.... I just saw her at a party a few days ago, and she was drinking, and acting like its the time of her life... has she not learned?

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9boxerlover(133 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

diamond, I know...hopefully it's true. Not only in Struthers are there kids on something. It's everywhere and scary as hell. I remember Pemberton Pool and lunch bags with styrene being inhaled by kids and this was over 30 years ago. And what about the latest accident, 5 miles from this one--teenagers, 100mph, no seatbealts? Are you kidding?

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10knowitall(1 comment)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

well well well, here we go again mister i think i know everything. its funny how you can get on a website and make ridiclious comments on a tragedy.pretty funny how you think you know these girls very well now dont you? i know the barco family and im close with kaylynn and she DOES NOT do drugs or drink.going on her facebook and looking at her pictures of her and her brother "high" yeah how about thats just some kids having fun WITHOUT using drugs, they had sunglasses on and were dancing, and if you knew anything about kaylynn you would know that she loves to dance and be silly.just because something came up you think you have the right to blame her for using things she didnt? and if youre so smart and saw her at a party a couple days ago, you would know her mother has not let her out of her sight, let alone shes not even fully recovered or ready to go out on her own.gettin into trouble? thats farthest from her mind she just lost her bestfrien there buddy why dont you get off her back and let things go? are you so perfect that you have nothing to hide because i think kaylynn telling the truth shows a lot about her.so next time you want to blame someone for something, make sure you get your facts straight.

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11TB(1167 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

do you have any data to back that up?

don't forget drugs are much more prevalent and easily accessible these days.

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