Family says Lynnwood WSU student died from alcohol poisoning

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The family of a Washington State University student who died last weekend said Wednesday that Kenneth Hummel died from acute alcohol poisoning.

Hummel, 18, from Lynnwood, was found unconscious Saturday morning at Stephenson Hall on the Pullman campus. Police say they received a call early Saturday from students saying Hummel was unconscious and they were performing CPR. He died later in the day at Pullman Regional Hospital.

The Whitman County coroner Pete Martin said Hummel had a blood alcohol level higher than 0.40 when he died.

Hummel's aunt, Lea Ann Easton, told a Seattle news conference Wednesday that her nephew also consumed some high-caffeine energy drinks that the family believes contributed to his death.

When a person drinks too much, they normally fall asleep or throw up, Easton said.

"With these caffeinated drinks, the body doesn't shut down," she said. "You can drink alcohol past the point where the body can handle it."

Hummel was a big kid, over 6-feet tall, his aunt said.

"He was the kid who would be talking to everybody, with a big smile on his face," Easton said.

The family wants to educate young people about the dangers of mixing alcohol and energy drinks, she said.

Meanwhile, Whitman County Coroner Peter J. Martin said a person would have to drink about a fifth of hard liquor to have a blood alcohol level of 0.40. The legal limit in Washington state is 0.08 percent.

Washington State University officials are responding to the death by forming a task force to study ways to reduce alcohol use and deal with over-consumption and other alcohol issues, spokesman Darin Watkins said.

"It's a national problem that's now come to light here in WSU," Watkins told The Spokesman-Review. "Somehow this year we're seeing more life-threatening alcohol conditions than ever before."

Watkins said four other WSU students have been hospitalized this year after drinking so much that they stopped breathing. They were revived, he said.

School president Elson Floyd issued a statement about Hummel's death Wednesday.

"The information in the coroner's report is sad and disturbing," Floyd said. "It also is a dramatic incentive for us to re-double our already extensive efforts in student education about alcohol use and abuse."