Toxicology tests show that a 24-year-old Colorado Mountain College student had a blood alcohol content level of .302, more than three times the legal limit, when he died early in the morning Oct. 27.
The preliminary autopsy of Joseph Michael Osborne, 24, indicated that he died of cardio-respiratory failure because of acute alcohol toxicity, Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg said. The findings came from toxicology tests done by the Jefferson County Coroner's Office.
Those tests, which came back Thursday, showed that, in addition to the blood alcohol test, a urine test showed Osborne had an alcohol content level of .406.
Ryg said indications are that the amount of alcohol in Osborne's system caused his heart to fail. Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said that police are investigating the death and that charges are possible against those who served Osborne alcohol the night of his death. Rae said the investigation will be given to the District Attorney's Office, which will determine whether to pursue criminal charges.
Osborne had been drinking at Sabre's Comedy Den, 703 Lincoln Ave., the night he died. Rae said the police investigation shows, except for a 25-minute period when Osborne's whereabouts were unknown, that Osborne was at the bar from about 9 p.m. until he left with four men in a taxi between 2 and 2:30 a.m.
The men were acquaintances Osborne met at the bar, and they offered to let him spend the night because of his level of intoxication.
"We want an account of what he was doing for every minute leading up to his death," Rae said. "It is just an account for every minute of time and the condition he was in when they were serving him."
Dale Walter, owner of Sabre's, said he and his staff did nothing wrong that night.
He said Osborne was at his bar between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., but left the bar twice for extended periods. Walter said credit card receipts show Osborne spent $34 on drinks at Sabre's, including at least two drinks he bought for friends. Walter said Osborne had a mixed drink, two beers and two shots during several hours at Sabre's. Walter said that Osborne was a regular customer and that he did not appear to be intoxicated until he left the bar at midnight and returned again at about 12:30 a.m. He did not drink again at Sabre's, Walter said.
"Joe was a bright young man and a good guitar player," Walter said. "I think what happened is a tragedy. Do I think we bear any responsibility? No. Not at all."
After leaving Sabre's, Osborne went with the men he met at the bar to their residence in the 500 block of Harms Court. The group put Osborne in a bed in a bedroom.
The next morning, at about 11:30 a.m., the two men who lived in the residence went into the bedroom to check on Osborne. Finding Osborne unconscious and not breathing, the men called police. Emergency personnel who responded to the scene pronounced him dead.
Osborne came to Steamboat Springs after enrolling at CMC for the 2000-01 school year, said Brian Hoza, assistant campus dean of student services.
Osborne was from Columbus, Ohio, and since his first year in school, he had moved across country but always returned to Steamboat. He returned to CMC this fall.
A very creative person who excelled in art and music classes, Osborne was studying for an associate of arts degree, Hoza said. "He was known to be a good guy, a real supportive and helpful person and a strong, quiet friend," Hoza said.
Osborne played guitar with a band in town and worked as a cook at Braun's Bar and Grill.
Since Osborne's death, Hoza said there have been staff counselors on hand, and the faculty has visited with his classmates. His death has affected students and started conversations about alcohol use and smart decision-making about using alcohol, Hoza said.
A service for Osborne is planned for Friday in California, where his father lives. Friends and college officials have discussed holding services for him in Steamboat.
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