Updated after the jump: Four Loko apologizes.
Over a month after the FDA banned Four Loko in its most toxic form — a mix of alcohol, caffeine, guarana and taurine — the “blackout in a can” apparently isn't done doing its damage.
On Friday morning at about 10 a.m., the bodies of 16-year-old Chelsea Taylor and 15-year-old Aaron Saenz were spotted through the window of a vacant apartment on the 15500 block of Huntington Village Lane — what we assume to be a unit in the Via Verde, or formerly Seawind Village, apartments. Next to the teens sat an empty can of Loko [OC Weekly].
Employees at the complex quickly called Huntington Beach police to report the trespassers.
“Management called and said, 'There's somebody inside,'” Lieutenant Russell Reinhart told the Huntington Beach Independent. “They didn't know if they were alive or deceased at the time.”
Devastatingly, the case turned out to be the latter.
According to police reports, there was evidence Taylor and Saenz (who was actually from Westminster) had been abusing other types of drugs and alcohol in the apartment, so we can't be sure it was the Loko that killed them.
However, after a group of Washington college students nearly died from a Loko binge last fall and more overdoses of the alcoholic energy drink have been reported around the country, it's an obvious target for blame.
There's also the fact that Four Loko makes consumers feel as if they're wide awake, far more sober than they are and perhaps impervious to the effects of other drugs.
No word on whether the Four Loko found in the room was the original banned recipe, or one of the new spin-offs that Phusion Projects is manufacturing — basically just malt liquor and sweet flavoring. National news media is latching onto Loko as the sure killer, but if it's of the newer, watered-down variety, that's highly unlikely.
From the Independent:
Reinhart said Huntington Beach police have had occasional problems with Four Loko, which remains legal in California.
“We've had problems with people drinking it on the beach, but we haven't had any deaths,” he said.
Check back for updates from Huntington Beach detectives and the Orange County coroner on possible causes of death.
R.I.P. Chelsea Taylor and Aaron Saenz.
Update: The immediate media attack on one can of Four Loko as a sure cause of Taylor and Saenz' untimely deaths caused Phusion Projects to release a somber, consolatory statement today:
“We are extremely saddened by this tragic event and our thoughts are with these young people's families and friends. This tragedy speaks to the serious concerns regarding alcohol and drug use in our society – concerns we would all like to see addressed and solved. We work very hard to ensure our products are consumed safely and responsibly by adults over the age of 21, and we have a vested interest – both personal and professional – in assuring the continued responsible consumption of our products. Those that sell or provide alcohol to minors should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
In November 2010, we proactively decided to reformulate our caffeinated alcoholic beverages (“CABs”), including Four Loko, prior to the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) action. Within days of the FDA's decision, we stopped distributing CABs and worked with our distributors to remove our CABs from the market and transition to selling our reformulated products, which do not contain caffeine, guarana or taurine. Since that time, we've been working closely with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) and our distributors to legally dispose of these products, and to do so in a way that promotes recycling and sustainability.
Our reformulated products, which are sold in California and approved by the TTB, received similar approvals from nearly all of the states in which we do business.”
Originally published on January 24 at 5:45 p.m.