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Police: Man inhaled keyboard cleaner, crashed

A Medford man with a history of DUII convictions is facing new charges after police say he inhaled compressed gas from a can of computer keyboard spray cleaner and crashed into two vehicles.

Marc Angel Alvirez, 27, of the 400 block of Plum Street, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants, three counts of recklessly endangering another person, reckless driving and criminal driving with a suspended or revoked license. He has a pre-trial conference scheduled for April 23, according to Jackson County Circuit Court records.

On Feb. 1, a Medford police officer was dispatched to a car crash near Rogue Valley Mall, according to a police affidavit.

Alvirez had allegedly crashed into two stopped vehicles and was reported to be impaired, the affidavit said.

“While I was on scene I made contact with Alvirez and saw he was slumped in the driver seat,” the responding officer wrote in the affidavit. “He was the only occupant inside the vehicle, and it was on when I made contact.”

Alvirez allegedly had an Insignia brand compressed gas canister sticking partly out of his jacket with his hand on the canister, the affidavit said.

“He was very lethargic and nonresponsive. Once out of the vehicle he admitted to using inhalants while driving and just prior to the crash,” the officer alleged in the affidavit.

The officer had Alvirez perform field sobriety tests, then took him into custody and transported him to Providence Medford Medical Center, where he gave blood and breath samples. He was later lodged at the Jackson County Jail, the affidavit said.

Alvirez was not listed on the jail roster Wednesday.

Insignia says on its website that it adds a bitter agent to its compressed gas dusters to discourage inhalant abuse.

Alvirez was convicted of driving under the influence of intoxicants in 2016.

In 2017, he was again convicted of driving under the influence of intoxicants, along with criminal driving with a suspended license.

The intoxicant in both of those cases appears to have been alcohol, according to an indictment and a traffic citation.

Driving under the influence of inhalants can be dangerous and deadly.

Sometimes called canned air or air dusters, canisters of electronics cleaner aren’t filled with regular air. Instead, they contain compressed gas such as difluoroethane.

When inhaled, difluoroethane displaces oxygen in the lungs, leading to oxygen deficiency. While users are seeking a high from inhalants, they also may pass out. Breathing in such substances can cause asphyxiation, brain and nerve damage, paralysis, an irregular heart beat, heart attack and death, according to medical experts.

Driving while inhaling compressed gas can also prove deadly if drivers pass out.

Three Illinois teens died in 2011 after their teen friend inhaled computer duster while driving and crashed, according to news reports and the Alliance for Consumer Education.

Driver Morgan Blakey was captured on store video buying a can of Ultra Dusting before the crash. Authorities believe he passed out, drove off the road and crashed, according to news reports.

Blakey was found guilty of aggravated driving under the influence and reckless homicide. He was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison, according to news reports.

Signs someone may be inhaling computer duster include going through a spray can product too quickly, a sore tongue from frostbite, an upset stomach, vomiting and behavior changes, according to the Alliance for Consumer Education.

More than 1,400 common products can be inhaled, and one out of five eighth graders has experimented with inhalants, according to the alliance.

Sings of inhalant abuse include painting the fingernails with markers or correction fluid, sitting with a marker by the nose, sniffing clothing sleeves, paint or stain marks on the face and fingers or on clothes, hiding empty containers or rags or clothing, having a drunk or dazed appearance, dizziness, slurred or disoriented speech, an unusual or chemical odor on the breath or on clothing, hallucinations, anxiety, excitability, irritability, restlessness and anger, according to the alliance.

The alliance urges parents to talk to their children about the dangers of inhalants.

For more information, see www.consumered.org/stop-inhalant-abuse.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.