Huffing caused death, coroner rules

TOM HUNT
Last updated 12:51 05/08/2014

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Rescue efforts by friends and paramedics were not enough to save a man who collapsed after ''huffing'' lighter fluid.

Dane Alfred Daniel, 24, unemployed, of Johnsonville died on November 20, 2013 of  ''acute butane toxicity'', Coroner Tim Scott ruled in a finding released today.

Daniel is just one of many New Zealanders to die from huffing butane.

There were 63 deaths relating to the inhalation of butane-based substances between 2000 and 2012. Of these, 55 were under 24 years old and 24 were under 17.

In the mid-2000s, following inquests into six huffing deaths, the Christchurch and Wellington coroners called on the government of the day to take a series of actions to warn young people off the practice, including a combined approach by the ministries of youth development, health and education.

In 2012, coroner Wallace Bain said too many young people were dying from huffing and an education programme was probably the most instructive way to get the necessary messages through.

In today's finding, Scott commented that huffing caused Daniel to collapse quickly and, despite prompt rescue attempts by friends and paramedics, die.

''The facts speak for themselves. I do not need to make any comment.''

On the day Daniel died, he and friend Travis Cruize John had gone to visit another friend  in Paparangi.

When that friend left for work, Daniel bought two cans of butane lighter fluid at a dairy - one for himself and one for John, who did not want one.

The pair went to the Jay St Reserve, where Daniel began ''huffing'' - inhaling the fumes of the lighter fluid.

After up to three minutes, Daniel collapsed and fell face down.

John, who at first thought it was a joke, ran over to Daniel. He turned him on his side and saw his pupils were dilated, he was struggling to breath, and his lips were blue.

He put Daniel in the recovery position and ran to get help.

He got a friend's girlfriend, identified only as Courtney, to call for an ambulance then returned to Daniel within three minutes of leaving him.

The pair tried giving CPR, as did paramedics when they arrived.

''[John] said that during this time Dane's eye remained wide open, his face was pale and blue, and he was not responding,'' the coroner said.

Daniel died at the park.

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- The Dominion Post

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