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Doctor Says Tainted Drink Killed Woman

April 28, 1998|From a Times Staff Writer

COSTA MESA — A Cal State Fullerton student who died on a Tijuana street during spring break choked after ingesting a spoiled fruit drink, her father and a private physician said Monday.

Earlier reports by the Tijuana coroner's office had indicated that Kavita Chopra, 21, had been felled by cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease, possibly brought on by heavy drinking.

But Dr. Parvin Syal, a Glendale physician retained by the family to do a tissue analysis, said Monday that he strongly disagrees.

"The blood analysis showed no evidence at all of any alcohol and no evidence of any drugs whatsoever," Syal said. "The cause of death was asphyxiation from aspirated vomit. We believe the drink she had was spoiled, which caused a gastric reaction that led to vomiting and, unfortunately, her death."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday April 30, 1998 Orange County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
Student--A 21-year-old woman who died in Tijuana after ingesting a fruit drink was a student at Santa Ana College. A story Monday misidentified the college.

Syal said the tissue analysis was done by the Los Angeles County coroner's office at his request. While the analysis did find some evidence of cardiomyopathy, he said, it appeared that the heart condition had been brought on by the stress of choking and had not been a direct cause of death.

"The entire episode could have put stress on her heart," he said.

Kavita Chopra was spending a day shopping in Tijuana with a friend on April 9 when she ordered a pina colada, the friend told authorities. After taking a few sips, the young woman complained that the drink didn't taste right, the friend said, and the two left the bar.

About 45 minutes later, Chopra told her friend she didn't feel well. A few minutes later, the friend told officials, Chopra's head fell to one side, her eyes rolled back and she stopped breathing.

The family said it would consult with lawyers and the American Embassy in Mexico regarding the possibility of suing the bar owner for wrongful death.

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