BAC of .323 for La Crosse man pulled from river

Shalim Augustine's body pulled from Black River July 11

The man pulled from the Black River in early July had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .323 – more than four times the legal limit to drive, according to the final toxicology report.

The La Crosse County Medical Examiner’s Office released the results on Wednesday morning.

Twenty-three-year-old Shalim Augustine’s body was pulled from the Black River in La Crosse just south of the I-90 bridge on July 11, just days after he was reported missing. 

According to preliminary autopsy results from the La Crosse, Augustine died from accidental drowning. He had been reported missing after hanging out with friends who docked their boat at the landing behind Powerhouse Marine near Black River Beach.

Medical personnel say when you’re out on the water the effects of alcohol can become even more intense.

“A .323 means to me that somebody has been drinking for quite a while,” said Casey Bablitch, a chemical dependency counselor at Gundersen Health System.

Bablitch said at .08 a person’s judgement becomes impaired and being on the water and in the sun can actually intensify the effects of alcohol.

“There is dehydration, there’s sun stroke, heat stroke, those kinds of things that can also play a role in intensifying the effects of alcohol,” Bablitch said.

Bablitch says with a BAC of .323 a person’s motor skills and reaction time become very slow.

“At that level you’re going to more than likely have coordination issues, coordination problems. So if somebody falls into the river, into the lake, they’re going to have difficulty swimming, getting back to shore,” he said.

La Crosse Fire Department Division Chief Tom Wallerich says during a water rescue, no matter what the blood alcohol level, slowed motor skills bring on added challenges.

“Their judgement would be maybe not as sharp as it would be if they weren’t under the influence obviously. It’s just alcohol and the river can be two deadly combinations if they’re not used in moderation,” Wallerich said.

Catherine Kolkmeier with the Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition says a 2010 study shows 25 percent of Wisconsin residents binge drink. She said her organization is doing its best to avoid these types of tragedies by educating people about the dangers of excessive drinking.

“We have a coalition that is looking at binge drinking and underage drinking as a cultural issue, we’re looking at it as a community health problem. And the way you approach a community wide problem is to approach it on many fronts at one time,” Kolkmeier said.

Bablitch also mentioned some refer to a .4 blood alcohol level as the lethal limit.