The family of a Jewish teenager from Bristol who died after taking a hallucinogenic drug in a tribal ritual in Columbia have said that the tribal leaders in question should be charged with manslaughter.
The uncle of 19-year old Henry Miller, who died in the remote Putumayo region on 23 April during a five-month tour of South America, also warned others about the drink believed to have caused his nephew’s death.
Backpackers travelling with Miller said the keen photographer became ill after imbibing ayahuasca, also known as yage, a plant infusion made by tribes in the Amazon which produces intense hallucinations and causes vomiting.
“He just got worse and worse,” said an eyewitness. “He was lying face down on the ground making very weird breathing noises. We picked him up and put him in a chair.
“He wasn’t speaking. He was lashing out with his hands and feet. Then he started making weird animal noises, pig sounds and at one point he tried to fly. He kept saying, ‘What’s going on, oh my God’ and holding his face.”
This week, two weeks after he died, his body was finally being flown back to England this week, after villagers who tried to help him panicked and left his body by the side of a road after he died in transit.
“Whoever gave out this substance should be arrested and charged with manslaughter, said Henry’s uncle Gary Miller. “I know it’s not an illegal drug, but they need to be held responsible. My poor Brother David – as parents we don’t expect our children to die before us.”
His uncle also warned others of the dangers, saying: “The upsetting thing is that there are loads of teenagers, both Jewish and not, who are experimenting with yage, especially in areas like Colombia.
He added: “It is not an illegal substance but it should be controlled. We should warn people as the dangers of taking them.”
Henry’s Jewish father David and mother Elizabeth were this week said to be awaiting further details from the Columbian authorities, after Henry’s older brother Freddy flew out to meet him a month before he died.