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Man's death called 'suicide by chemical' by Westmoreland officials

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Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A 40-year-old Fayette County man committed “suicide by chemical” on Friday near Willow Park in Mt. Pleasant Township, authorities said.

Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha said the man used a chemical pesticide inside his vehicle to end his life. A passerby found him outside the car.

Bacha would not identify the chemical, describing it as a professional-grade pesticide used to kill rodents. Deputy Coroner Sean R. Hribal pronounced the man dead at the scene. The Tribune-Review does not identify suicide victims.

A state police trooper who entered the vehicle got some of the pesticide on his uniform, Bacha said, and was decontaminated by the county's hazardous-materials team before being taken to Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg as a precaution.

“He showed no symptoms,” Bacha said.

The cause of the man's death was awaiting an autopsy and toxicology reports. Bacha said it would likely be attributed to some type of chemical asphyxiation.

“We're not sure why or how he did it,” Bacha said.

Chemical or detergent suicide is a growing, nationwide trend.

A 41-year-old Ligonier Township man attempted suicide in 2011 by mixing two household cleaners. Two Somerset police officers who rescued him were treated for chemical exposure.

U.S. officials became concerned in 2008 that detergent suicides would spread here because about 500 Japanese citizens took their lives following instructions posted on an website. Hazmat officials across the United States said they continue to see a spike in chemical suicides, using household products like detergents and even fungicides.

In Mt. Pleasant, emergency vehicles surrounded a small parking lot off Bridgeport Street, where the man's black sedan was parked, shortly after 8 a.m., residents said. First responders pitched a white tent and used a blue tarp as a makeshift tent.

Drivers slowed along Bridgeport Street to look at the scene; some stopped to ask neighbors and reporters what was going on.

Firefighters in full gear or hazardous-materials suits, with oxygen tanks on their backs and masks covering their faces, collected items from the car that were placed in plastic bags and later placed back into the car.

No one at the scene would speak with reporters, directing questions to state police.

Diane Washington, who lives on Depot Street near Willow Park, said she saw police cars and medic vehicles at the scene between 8 and 8:30 a.m. A couple of hours later, a Hazmat truck and Westmoreland County Public Safety truck arrived.

“Whatever they pulled out of that car had to be something,” Washington said.

Dometta Blacka, who lives across the street from Willow Park, described the neighborhood as a quiet area with walking and bike paths around the park that usually draw visitors.

“Today is kind of a lousy day, but there are always cars there to get on the bike trail,” which goes to Scottdale, Blacka said.

Staff writer Kari Andren contributed to this report. Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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