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Reports show UW-Stout fire victims were drunk

Toxicology reports released Tuesday showed that the three University of Wisconsin-Stout students who died in an April 5 off-campus fire had blood-alcohol levels two-to-four times the minimum for intoxication.

Scott Hams, 23, Hayward; April Englund, 21, West St. Paul, Minn.; and Amanda Rief, 20, Chaska, Minn., all died in the fire.

The chancellor of UW-Stout reacted to the reports by saying that the university has to renew efforts to curb student drinking.

"This does not make their deaths any less tragic; this does mean that as a campus, we need to review our efforts to ensure we do whatever possible to curb alcohol abuse among members of the UW-Stout community because this is a serious issue of public health and safety," said Charles W. Sorensen, in a released statement.

Sorenson said that the university has a highly-regarded comprehensive approach to combating alcohol abuse on campus, which he said has contributed to a slow but continuous improvement in efforts to reduce high-risk drinking.

"Through the University Counseling Center, the UW-Stout Alcohol and Other Drug Education Program provides a variety of services related to alcohol and other drug prevention, intervention, assessment and counseling," Sorenson said.

He added that university officials are working on a campaign against what he called "high-risk" drinking.

"The chancellor's coalition on alcohol and other drugs is working on a marketing campaign to spread the word even more effectively that the personal choice to be smart and healthy does not include high-risk drinking," Sorenson said.

"We need to continue to spread the message that any student who drinks to excess puts himself or herself in danger, that if you drink too much, you can't keep yourself or your friends safe," he concluded.

The fire took place in a two-story structure at 1415 8th St. E. and was called in at around 3:30 a.m.

An investigation of the fire was conducted by the Menomonie Police and Fire Departments along with the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation - Arson Bureau.

Their investigation found that the fire originated in the living room area, primarily related to a love seat.

However, investigators were not able to discover what caused the fire to start.

Officials did discover used cigarettes in the living room area, but are not sure if they had a role in starting the blaze.