Don't mix drink and ice water: charity

The death of a Kaitaia man has prompted the Cancer Society to warn anyone taking part in the ice-water challenge to steer clear of alcohol.

Willis Tepania reportedly died some hours after having a bucket of ice poured over his head last weekend in the fundraising challenge, which has become a social media craze.

The cause of his death has not been confirmed, with TVNZ quoting an unnamed aunt saying the family did not believe Tepania's death was connected to the challenge.

He had been in poor health for several years and had a bit of a drinking problem. He died of a heart attack about 12 hours after doing the challenge, the aunt said.

Tepania's body had been buried by the time the duty coroner was informed of the death.

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean's office is to raise his concerns about the delay with the Northland chief medical officer. MacLean said he was concerned at the way Northland District Health Board officials reported Willis Tepania's death.

"It seems a doctor was prepared to sign a death certificate in circumstances that, in my opinion, were not appropriate. I am satisfied there are issues surrounding the death that meant the duty coroner should have been notified promptly," MacLean said.

A standard hospital report form prepared for the duty coroner had also not been sent for some days.

"When the duty coroner was finally informed and took jurisdiction of the death, it emerged Mr Tepania's body was already buried," MacLean said.

Coroner Wallace Bain had taken over jurisdiction of the case.


A report of the death of the 40-year-old father was reposted on the Cancer Society Auckland's Facebook page this week.

"People actually don't know the consequences of this ice challenge," the posting said.

The society later warned anyone taking on the challenge, which involved being doused in freezing water as a dare and then making a donation to charity, to be safe and responsible.

"We would say that if you are thinking about doing this, steer clear of alcohol and don't take any crazy risks."

In a media release the society said: "Cancer Society cares about your health and wellbeing and so does not support the consumption of alcohol as part of this challenge."

The society said the ice-bucket challenge started overseas some months ago, initially as a water challenge. It was not the society's initiative and the idea was to donate to a person's favourite charity, not just the society.

A St John Ambulance spokesman confirmed a 40-year-old Kaitaia man was taken to Kaitaia Hospital and later flown to Whangarei Hospital after a cardiac arrest on Sunday.

University of Otago school of physical education associate professor Chris Button has researched how humans respond when suddenly immersed in cold water.

While the ice-water challenge could be risky for those with existing heart problems, for the majority of people it would probably not be a problem, he said.

His research had shown there were even benefits of habitual exposure to cold water.

"If you've done a bit of cold water habituation you're much less vulnerable to the negative aspects of it," he said.

"It's like how they do the polar plunge in Dunedin every year ... I'd say it's probably not such a bad thing, you just have to think about doing it in a controlled fashion."