'Dusting,' blamed in fatal crash, growing in popularity

Three teens killed in a Greene County crash last fall were inhaling compressed air cleaner before the driver collided with a motorcyclist, also killing him, Pennsylvania State Police said Monday.

Cullin Frazer and Benjamin Hardy, both 18 and from Waynesburg; Bryon Kerr, 18, of Carmichaels; and Michael Cohen, 47, of Oshawa, Canada, all died at the scene of the Oct. 3 collision in the southbound lanes of Interstate 79, just south of Marianna.

Four others were seriously injured.

While driving down I-79, the teens huffed a colorless gas used in the propellant in computer cleaning spray, according to a coroner's report.

"Dusting" -- inhaling cleaner for computer keyboards -- has become increasingly common over the past few years, said Neil Capretto, medical director at Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Aliquippa.

PG graphic: Four dead in I-79 crash
(Click image for larger version)

"It's a dangerous thing to do if you're sitting in your living room -- let alone driving a car," he said.

Cans of computer cleaner have a long straw that can be used to spray the cleaner into users' mouths, he said.

"You can get quite a euphoric effect -- a high -- but it can make you very dizzy, giddy," he said. "You can die from it."

Inhalants may have similar effects to alcohol intoxication and include initial symptoms of drowsiness, lightheadedness and loss of inhibition, according to a news release from state police in Waynesburg. Death can occur after the first use, state police said.

Inhalant use has been going on for years, from sniffing glue to taking a huff of nitrous oxide in a whipped cream can, known as whippets, Dr. Capretto said.

Dave Mason, principal of Waynesburg Central High School where one of those killed was a student, said he wasn't aware of a dusting problem among his students.

"We have never caught anybody doing that here in all my years," he said.

Mr. Frazer, the driver of the 2003 Mitsubishi Outlander carrying six teenagers northbound on I-79 "abruptly and for undetermined reasons" drove up a hilly median, state police said last fall.

The car went airborne and landed in the southbound lane, where it hit a camper and collided with the motorcycle.

Mr. Cohen's passenger on the motorcycle was flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va.

The three other teens in the SUV were taken via ambulance to the same hospital.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. Twitter: @borntolede. Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. First Published January 15, 2013 5:00 AM


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