Three dead after drinking root-infused alcohol in Vietnam

The police department in Ky Son District, Nghe An Province has opened an investigation into the which plant’s roots were used to infuse flavors into a bottle of alcohol they suspect to have caused three deaths earlier this week.

Ky Son District police also approached the families of deceased victims Moong Van Di, his wife Lo Thi Van, both 40, and his younger brother Moong Van Muoi, 34, on March 13 for further questioning.

The fourth victim, Di’s brother-in-law Lu Van Kham, 25, was transferred from Ky Son General Hospital to Nghe An General Hospital, and was still on life support as of March 13.

three dead after drinking root-infused alcohol in vietnam hinh 0
Lu Van Kham, the last surviving victim, was still on life support as of March 13, 2018. Photo: Toi Tre

According to relatives and locals, Di had gone foraging in a nearby forest three days earlier and found the roots of unknown plants.  He later chopped them up, sun-dried them, and infused them in a bottle of wine.

Van only took one shot before falling into an unconscious state, according to relatives.

Di, meanwhile, was unable to stand after a few shots, indicating the strength of the toxins.

All four victims were rushed to Ky Son Hospital at 3:00 pm on March 12 but three died within 30 minutes of arrival.

The police sealed a 1.5-liter (or 0.4-gallon) plastic bottle containing the reddish brown liquor considered to be the primary cause of intoxication.

The four shot glasses used by the victims and a plastic bag containing 0.5 kilograms of chopped and sun-dried roots were also sealed for investigation.

The chopped roots gave off an unpleasant acrid smell.

Officials believe the roots are extremely toxic, yet have not been able to identify exactly which plant they came from.

An investigation into the species of the infused roots was still ongoing as of March 13.

According to locals, people usually lace their alcohol with roots and other parts of plants found in the forest, believing the infusion will give the beverage medicinal properties.

Many Vietnamese infuse wine with plants and animals, including but not limited to seeded banana, snake, and centipede.

The infused alcohol is considered a folk medicine capable of curing and preventing many diseases.

Intoxication related to infusing unknown substances into alcohol, however, is not uncommon.

Seven residents in Thai Binh Province were hospitalized after drinking wine infused with devil’s trumpets during a house-warming party on October, 2017.

Another seven in Ben Tre Province were hospitalized after drinking a mixture of herb-infused wines in July 2017.

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