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Mystery Substance Still Unspecified!

Image: Chief Medical Officer, Merlene Fredericks

Police And Health Authorities Picking-up Leads In Coolie Town Investigations…

JUST about a week after Coolie Town residents were jolted into fright after four persons from the community died and several were treated at hospital for ingesting an unknown substance at a wake, answers to key questions about the mysterious are still not forthcoming.

Image: Chief Medical Officer, Merlene Fredericks
Chief Medical Officer, Merlene Fredericks

An investigative team comprising personnel from the Ministry of Health and the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force has been working all week long, even setting up a medical outpost in the affected community, to come up with definite answers to burning questions – especially what was the deadly substance and how it entered the community.

The most the team could come up with, according to Dr.Merlene Fredericks (the Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health) was that the substance ingested, a drink that smelled and tasted like alcohol, was probably laced with Methanol.

“It seems to be pointing to that, but we do not have the definite evidence as yet,” she said at a news conference.

Dr. Fredericks admitted that the signs and symptoms seen in persons who drank the substance suggested Methanol — a form of alcohol very similar to drinking alcohol (ethanol). However, unlike ethanol, methanol is highly toxic and unfit for human consumption.

A post mortem examination of the bodies of the four residents of Coolie Town — said to have been victims of the unknown substance — will be undertaken, with the police hoping that samples taken from them, to be examined at the Tapion Forensic Laboratory, will reveal the exact nature of the substance.

“It is our intention to take samples from these bodies. We have been in dialogue with the lab. The results given to the police will see what we are dealing with,” said Sgt. Linus George of the Major Crimes Unit.

Dr. Fredericks said preliminary investigation showed that the substance possibly wasn’t only used at the wake or funeral reception, but it may have been sold to some bars in the area.

“We were able to have a discussion with one or two of the bar owners, who admitted that a particular individual came and offered some unspecified substance to them. Some say they accepted, but threw it away afterwards,” she said.

However, residents generally seem not too keen on pushing the investigation forward, something the police are not happy with.

Inspector Leroy Charles of the Major Crime Unit said police have not been getting much help from residents. He is encouraging residents to come forward stating that they should get out of their minds that police, as law enforcement officers are simply seeking to arrest persons.

Monday was when the last person died supposedly from the unknown substance. Since then there have been persons coming to Victoria Hospital with a history of having tasted the substance, some saying it tasted like alcohol , others saying they mixed it with drinkable alcohol.

Dr. Fredericks said those who may have drank the substance developed diarrhea, abdominal pains, blurred vision and a sudden onset of blindness while severe cases result in persons losing consciousness, eventually dying.

She called on persons who may have come into contact with the unknown substance to keep samples for police so that the lawmen could examine them.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...

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