Alcohol  is a commonly ingested substance which has been implicated in the causation of many types of accidents. Its effects can be summarised as loss of control of movements, decreased ability to process information and make decisions, decreased awareness of surroundings and situations and prolonged reaction times. Numerous studies have implicated ethanol as a causal or contributing factor in fatal aviation accidents. There are legal and social issues associated with a pilot’s use of ethanol. It is therefore important to make a correct assessment of the pilot’s blood alcohol (ethanol) level at the time of the accident….



It is known that micro-organisms involved in the process of putrefaction after death can produce alcohol, usually a mixture of ethanol and other volatile substances. This paper will discuss the means of determining the pilot’s blood ethanol concentration based on specimens collected after death. Background information including the basic chemistry and metabolism of ethanol, the process of putrefaction and the production of alcohol by micro-organisms after death will be provided. Laboratory methods of ethanol analysis and the range of specimens used will be described. In sum, a good general overview of the matter.



**  ATSB Alcohol in Fatal Aviation Victims

       Dr Shelley Robertson 
        MBBS, LLB, FRCPA, DMJ, FACLM, DAvMed, MHealSc (AvMed)