In other items: Alcohol involved in Colorado student's death; three die in avalanches in Utah backcountry; and Boeing scrubs launch of rocket.

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New Jersey’s heroin was found to be the purest in the nation for the second straight year, a dubious distinction that has sparked concern in the medical and law-enforcement communities.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) tests of heroin samples obtained from New Jersey streets showed 71.4 percent purity in 2002, nearly twice the national average. In the 2003 report, due out soon, New Jersey again will hold the top spot, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

New Jersey is the first stop in the country for many drug traffickers, which means less of the heroin on the state’s streets has been diluted and resold. The higher purity rates are causing an array of problems for law-enforcement and health officials.

Purer heroin means more overdoses, and it makes kicking the habit more difficult. The new heroin is also pure enough to be snorted or smoked, which makes it more attractive to younger people.

The DEA’s Newark office has made the drug its top priority, devoting half its manpower to rooting out heroin dealers. Heroin seizures have increased 600 percent in the past five years, said Michael Pasterchick, special agent in charge of the office.


Alcohol involved in student’s death

Colorado State University officials said a 20-year-old student whose body was found over the weekend appears to be the latest in a string of alcohol-related deaths involving Colorado students this fall.

Bennett Bertoli’s body was found Saturday morning in a house across the street from where he lived near the Fort Collins campus. Police said they were called after attempts to wake him were unsuccessful.

His body was found the same day a memorial was held for a Florence, Colo., high-school student who died of alcohol poisoning after drinking with friends on Dec. 3. The deaths followed five others at Colorado colleges this fall in which alcohol has been involved. Three of the students died of alcohol poisoning, while two were involved in accidents.

Salt Lake City

Three die in avalanches in Utah backcountry

At least three people have been killed in weekend avalanches in Utah’s backcountry, and a fourth man remained missing.

Rescue crews yesterday recovered the body of Melvin Denis, 32, who was snowshoeing with a friend a day earlier in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest east of Salt Lake City when an avalanche trapped them, police said.

Rescue workers found Denis’ body yesterday morning. The search for his friend, Bruce Quint, was halted yesterday when it became dark.

A skier was killed Friday when he was swept up in an avalanche in the national forest. On Saturday, a man died after being buried in snow while snowmobiling in Wasatch County.


Boeing scrubs launch of rocket

Boeing scrubbed a planned launch of a Delta IV heavy-lift rocket yesterday as engineers sought to determine what caused a temperature-control system to malfunction after an aborted launch Saturday.

The company had planned to send the rocket on its maiden trip into space Saturday with a test payload as a demonstration for the Air Force.

It scuttled the Saturday launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., when a problem was discovered with the automated system that controls the final seconds of the countdown.