Authorities warned against the dangers of drinking canned fruit wines after two university students were killed and three other people were seriously injured in a car accident early yesterday morning.
Police said that after a late-night revelry in Greater Taichung that included alcohol, Lee Cheng-wei (李振瑋), 20, drove a rented black Mazda sedan to take his friends home.
However, the car veered out of control on a curve at the Taichung Metropolitan Park’s exit downhill road, smashed into two roadside trees, then flipped on its side.
Lee and a 20-year-old female passenger surnamed Cheng (鄭) were killed.
Authorities said it was another case of tragic deaths resulting from drunk driving.
According to the police report, Lee had been drinking and had an alcohol level of 0.15 percent in his blood when tested. One of the injured passengers, 20-year-old Chen (陳), regained consciousness and told police that the group had consumed six bottles of fruit wine during the night.
Chu Chun-ying (朱俊盈), head of emergency ward at Feng Yuan Hospital in Greater Taichung, said that drinking fruit wine could be even more dangerous than drinking beer.
“Most of the fruit wines in cans or bottles sold in stores have an alcohol content of about 3.5 percent. Because they have a sweet flavor and go down fairly smoothly, people tend to drink more and at a faster rate than beer and other alcoholic beverages. People can get drunk on it and quickly lose control over their mental and physical faculties,” Chu said.
He said that some brands are like bubbly fruit champagne and have an alcohol content that is equal to or greater than that of beer.
“So we urge the public to be especially careful. Do not drink fruit wines and think they are like regular beverages,” he said.
“And never drink and drive,” he added.
The police investigation found that the group included four fellow workers at the Birdwowo Restaurant Cafe in Greater Taichung’s Top City Department Store.
After finishing work on Sunday evening, the four, who were also university students, went to a Japanese fire pot restaurant on Wensin Road for a late-night meal.
After eating, Lee drove the car to take the other three — including Cheng, 20-year-old Chen and 17-year-old Tsai (蔡). On the way to Taichung Metropolitan Park, Lee picked up a friend, a 27-year-old man surnamed Tseng (曾).
When medics and emergency rescue units arrived at the scene of the accident, they had to extract the five individuals from the smashed-up car and rush them to the local hospital.
All five sustained serious injuries. Lee and Cheng could not be resuscitated and died in hospital. The other three — Chen, Tsai and Tseng — were still in intensive care at press time.