Drinking games led to man's death

'Tragic' deaths highlight alcohol issues

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 10:05 23/11/2012

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An alcohol watchdog group is concerned at the "tragic" case of a Sanson man who drank himself to death after trying to win a pool table by drinking a bottle of vodka.

Joshua Leigh Taunoa, 26, was drinking with family members in Feilding before he died on the morning of July 10.

"In simple and real terms, Josh drank himself to death," coroner Tim Scott said in his findings released yesterday.

On July 9, Mr Taunoa had been playing drinking games and was already intoxicated when he declared he could have a pool table at the North St property if he drank the vodka.

Those who were drinking with him agreed to the deal but took the bottle from him after he was halfway through it and helped him to a bed they had made on the pool table. His blood alcohol reading at autopsy was 333 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, more than four times the legal limit for driving.

At 6am the next day, a female family member saw Taunoa snoring on the pool table and gave him another blanket. About 8am, another family member discovered he was dead.

Mr Taunoa's case was one of two findings reported by coroners yesterday.

In the other, coroner Peter Ryan ruled William Hono Paki, 56, of Pukekohe, died on December 31, also from alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams told the Manawatu Standard that the cases were concerning.

"This competitive type of behaviour is particularly worrying. You wouldn't be allowed to do that in a licensed premise for example."

Mr Taunoa had been playing drinking games before the pool table dare, Mr Scott said. Losing a game required Mr Taunoa to drink, and Mr Scott said witnesses reported he had lost multiple times.

Ms Williams said the two deaths were "tragic". "What struck me was the age. These are not children; these are mature adults to a certain extent."

Ms Williams said better education around the harm of alcohol was needed but it would be difficult for those messages to get through until greater restrictions were placed on the product's marketing.

"The message is it's normal to drink, it's normal to drink a lot, and you just laugh off those occasions when you get a bit too drunk or get hungover."

The Alcohol Reform Bill making its way through Parliament did not include a requirement for warning labels. What was in the legislation would not do enough to curb New Zealand's issues with drinking, Ms Williams said.

"We're going to see more of these kind of deaths across the spectrum, young, old, men, women."

In the Pukekohe case, Mr Ryan said Mr Paki was noticed to be consuming a significant quantity of alcohol at a family event on December 30 in the rural Auckland town. He was found dead in his car about 1.15am on December 31 after going there to sleep. "It is likely that Mr Paki was unaware of the inherent danger of the consumption of a large quantity of alcohol," Mr Ryan said.

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"It is a constant source of concern to me that a product that can result in the death of a consumer when drunk in excess, is able to be sold without [a warning label]." An autopsy found Mr Paki had a blood alcohol level of 320mg.

- Manawatu Standard

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