Man Accused of Wrongful Death / Huffing While Driving
File this one under the unfortunate chronicles of The Florida Man. Paul Streater got into his Chevy Silverado pickup truck after huffing a can of compressed air and proceeded to drive his vehicle directly into a Dodge Caravan at 107 miles per hour. He killed everyone inside. Jorge C. Raschiotto, his sister Veronica, and her two children were among those killed in the crash.
The family has filed a lawsuit against Streater for the wrongful death of the four Raschiottos.
Toxicology reports indicate that Streater had 1,1-Difluoroethane in his bloodstream at the time of the accident. 1,1-Difluoroethane is the primary ingredient in “Dust Off”, a commercially available cleaning product used on electronics.
What is 1,1-Difluoroethane?
The substance is used to blow the dust off electronics and other sensitive equipment that wouldn’t respond well to a wet rag. It is also used by some people as a means of getting high. It has been associated with three deaths of primary users who used the substance to get high. 1,1-Difluoroethane induces a temporary state of euphoria. The three cases mentioned in the article involved one case of user dying of frostbite, another that appeared to be a suicide attempt, and a third where it was the inhalant appeared to be used during sexual intercourse.
If the sexual intercourse bit sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Two major stars (Michael Hutchins and David Carridine) died during erotic asphyxiation. The temporary cutting off of oxygen to the brain creates a fleeting high that some people seem to really enjoy. For those on a budget looking for a quick fix, dust spray is an easy option.
In typical cases, the cause of death to users is cardiac arrhythmia. The substance has been linked to several car accidents. Typical tox screens, however, don’t tend to catch the chemical and it’s debatable whether or not there are toxicology reports capable of uncovering the substance. It will certainly become a key issue in Streater’s defense now that he has to deal with four counts of vehicular manslaughter.
Holding Dust Off Liable
An interesting question is: Is the manufacturer of “Dust Off” responsible for the deaths and/or victims of drivers who have used the chemical. The answer is no. There is no legal precedent for holding a company that produced alcohol liable for a car accident if a driver injures or kills someone else. By analogy, “Dust Off” would be safe as well. On the other hand, they are producing a product that has a high potential for abuse.
While there is no legal requirement to do so, some companies have begun placing bitterants into the formulation to discourage recreational use. However, the chemical is an essential part of the propellant system in aerosol sprays and is better for than environment than other options. Thus it will continue to stay in use until a better alternative can be found.
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