MOUNTAIN VILLAGE — A woman suspected of drinking homemade liquor died in her sleep in an Alaska village, State Troopers said.
Ramona Rose Waskey, 57, of Mountain Village, was last seen alive at about 2 a.m. Monday, said Sgt. Aaron Mobley. She was reported dead about 10 hours later.
Troopers think Waskey may have aspirated the contents of her stomach, which clogged her airway, after drinking too much homebrew, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Many Lower Yukon River villages in western Alaska outlaw alcohol but long have struggled with homebrew abuse as residents improvise with high-powered and unpredictable liquors from yeast, water and sugar.
“It’s basically the PCP of alcohol,” Mobley said. “You don’t know what it’s going to do to you or how it’s going to affect you.”
Mountain Village, a Yupik community of about 830 people, banned the sale and importation of alcohol in 1984.
City Mayor Joyce Brown-Rivers said residents in 2010 voted down a proposal to lift the ban and turn the town into a “damp” community. That is a village where opening a bar or liquor store would not be allowed but residents would be able to order a limited amount of alcohol each month.
Brown-Rivers said the problem of people making illegal homebrews has worsened in recent years.
“It’s all over. All over the rural villages,” she said.
The rate of alcohol-induced deaths in the census area that includes Mountain Village is more than 60 percent higher than the statewide rate, according to the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics. The figure includes liver disease and alcohol poisoning, among other causes, but not violent deaths such as alcohol-fueled car accidents or suicide.