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It is a rite of passage for the kids who like to party: a girls' trip to Bali.

But instead, Brianna Scott and Katie Linane, both 21 from Ballarat in Victoria, could have lost their lives, suffered severe organ damage or gone blind after falling victim to a deadly deception.

After arriving for a 10-day holiday at the end of October in Seminyak, the pair went out on a Friday evening together to some of the local bars, reports News.com.au.


The pair sought help at a hospital close to where they were staying, but claim the medical attention wasn't sufficient.

Luckily for the young Aussies, Australian Colin "Col" Ahearn was there to help.

The young women turned to a Facebook page called Just Don't Drink Spirits In Bali.

Closely and passionately run by Australian Colin Ahearn, the page provides advice to travellers in Indonesia to help prevent methanol poisonings.

Mr Ahearn advised the girls to drink real, duty-free vodka, which can sometimes reverse the symptoms of methanol poisoning. Mr Ahearn helped to source legitimate alcohol in Seminyak, and sent the bottle to the girls to consume.

Hey guys, bit of an urgent one. Who here is in Seminyak at the moment that can part with some duty free, we have an urgent situation. Cheers Col

Posted by Just Don't Drink Spirits In Bali on Saturday, 2 November 2019

"We drank half a bottle of Grey Goose," Ms Scott explained, noting they were both out of action for three or four days in total thanks to the two cocktails.

But while the measure worked for the young Australians, it is not foolproof, with Prof Haber urging anyone who comes in to contact with the poison to seek immediate medical attention.

A passion project born from tragedy

Ahearn was deeply affected by the death of the Kiwi-Australian teen Liam Davies in January 2013, who was vigilant and concerned about counterfeit spirits, but still lost his life after drinking them.


The young son of Taranaki parents died of methanol poisoning after being served what the bar staff stated were genuine imported Vodka Limes mixes at Rudy Bar on Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, January 2013.

The drink was in fact "fake" - diluted with deadly methanol. Liam and two friends suffered from severe methanol poisoning that night. His friends got lucky and survived, but Liam did not.

"I met Liam's mum and dad the week after Liam had his life support turned off here in Perth," said Ahearn, when approached by The Herald.

"As you would know, Lhani and Tim Davies are Kiwis, I just love 'em to bits, but wish I never had met them in these circumstances. "

Ahearn has spent the last six years spreading awareness, most recently through his Facebook page "Just Don't Drink Spirits In Bali".

He also works closely with Lhani and Tim Davies on promoting safe drinking, "A lot of bar owners in Bali really don't like me. Oh well."

He has devoted thousands of hours to sharing his warnings and replying to comments and messages. Just last week his Facebook post about his personal information being printed on Duty Free receipts went around the world.

Ok, this should be something to get your attention. Lots of people hold their hands on their hips and say, bars wouldn't...

Posted by Just Don't Drink Spirits In Bali on Sunday, 23 June 2019

"It's been a long, hard road trying to get awareness," says Ahearn.

"Methanol is a byproduct of poor distillation and can be present still if it hasn't been removed correctly through the distillation process. This is not the only way methanol is introduced in spirits, though. Industrial methanol has been found in many cases where spirits at bars have been tested. Generally faecal matter is also found in these samples as the diluted spirits are refilled with local water."

"It's a solvent. It takes one millilitre per kilo of body weight to kill you."

The Perth man released a video three years ago that went viral and still gets weekly attention, where he explains a disturbing incident from the night before and gives more context on the crisis.

Despite his efforts, the Australian still sees young people taking chances with their lives "Every day when we are there."

Liam's Kiwi parents, the Davies, have since devoted themselves to the LIAM "Lifesaving Initiative Against Methanol" Foundation.

Ahearn is proud of his efforts, and especially of the Davies'. He says it is thanks to Tim and Lhani that many tourists now survive poisoning, "unlike poor Liam"

"Prior to Lhani and Tim doing all the work they have done you could not get ethanol blockers as a treatment in hospital in Bali. [The blockers] buy your body time to then get other treatment. They had legislation changed in Bali, which had never happened prior."

"Additionally The LIAM Foundation has facilitated and paid for training for over 8,000 medical professionals in Indonesia on how to recognise and treat methanol poisoning. You now get better treatment in Bali than what you will in Australia and maybe even New Zealand."

Fans of Col's Facebook page often find him after their own horrific experiences.

Like Peppa, "A relative of our family lost his son and two of their mates and his other son has permanent organ damage from methanol poisoning. The danger is real and it kills. Its like playing Russian roulette"

I was recently a victim of methanol poisoning while I was on vacation in Indonesia. On the third week of my stay, I was...

Posted by Valerie Branch on Sunday, 7 July 2019

Noni lost her daughter in Bali, "You are very lucky to have survived. Unfortunately, my beloved 21 year old daughter Roisin didn't. She also was poisoned on Gili T and died a horrific death."

Ahearn; "Methanol isn't a fun subject, I really have a lot better things that I could be doing with my time than continually trying to raise awareness about it in Bali."

"I look at others drinking [cocktails] and have to decide to leave them alone. It's everyone's choice to drink, but I always wonder, do those guys actually know what they could be about to do? Is this drink the one that will change their life? "

What is arak?

Islam is the most adhered to religion in Indonesia. Alcohol is highly taxed, which results in some bars substituting liquor for locally fermented arak, a distilled grape and aniseed drink, or other counterfeit spirits.

In Bali a 600ml plastic bag of arak costs less than NZ$5. It is not uncommon for arak to contain dangerous amounts of methanol.

Ahearn says, "I have drank Arak in the past as well, you could not pay me to do it now. Traditionally the blokes in villages would make it and make it well. The guard has changed as lots of them men now go away from home to work, lots of the women are making it now with a lot more time pressure. There is now a lot of average and dangerous Arak being produced."

Symptoms of methanol poisoning include acute abdominal pain, headache and lack of coordination in body movements. Victims often seek medical treatment only after a delay, because symptoms tend to appear long after methanol has been consumed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO said there have been recent outbreaks in about a dozen countries, including India, Norway, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

How to be safe

1. Methanol is only found in "fake" or illegally produced "spirits", so you can safely drink beer, wine and cider as well as premixed drinks – or any duty-free spirits you bring with you.

2. Avoid sketchy bars and clubs or those that have excessive discounts and deals. If you want to go, NEVER order cocktails.

3. Alcohol (ethanol) is not exactly an antidote, but it dilutes methanol and reduces how fast you metabolise the poison. Here's a guide from LIAM:

4. Testing alcohol by scent or by flame are neither guaranteed nor safe methods of testing so we won't outline them. You're best to avoid spirits entirely.

5. This resource by LIAM is a good one to print, bookmark and share.

Article originally published by nzherald.co.nz on Friday Nov 8, 2019