Death after King's College ball

HELPING HAND: An ambulance waits outside the Eden Park function centre.
Sunday Star-Times
HELPING HAND: An ambulance waits outside the Eden Park function centre.

Auckland's King's College is reeling from the death of another student but its headmaster is rejecting reports the school's ball was fuelled by booze and drugs.

David Gaynor, 17, died after leaving the south Auckland school's annual ball at the Eden Park function centre last night.

He is the son of business commentator, columnist and company director Brian Gaynor.

Ambulance and police were called to Greenlane Bridge, south of the central city, at 10.30pm and rushed the teenager to Auckland Hospital, where he died a short time later.

King's College headmaster Bradley Fenner said the death was a dreadful personal tragedy for David's family, his friends and the school community.

But he strongly denied allegations the night's ball was marred by heavy alcohol consumption, saying no alcohol was served or allowed at the King's College ball.

"Media reports that the ball was marred by heavy drinking are absolutely incorrect," he said.

"There were a number of pre-balls held at private locations before the ball which involved both parents and students. All students were checked for any sign of alcohol impairment before they were allowed into the ball.

"A couple of partners who were not King's students were excluded and their parents took them home."

David was an popular young man who had many friends. He was a capable student and a good swimmer and soccer player, Fenner said.

FAMILY, FRIENDS GRIEVE

PARTY CENTRAL: Party-goers leave last night's King's College ball.
Sunday Star-Times
PARTY CENTRAL: Party-goers leave last night's King's College ball.

David's father confirmed his son had died but did not want to comment.

"We are grieving the loss of our boy and do not want to talk," he said.

Witnesses said the ball was marred by drunkenness and required an ambulance.

SWIM FAN: A photo of David Gaynor taken from a tribute page set up on Facebook.
Facebook
SWIM FAN: A photo of David Gaynor taken from a tribute page set up on Facebook.

"He had been at the ball. He went home with his father and there has been some sort of accident," Fenner said.

Earlier today, Fenner said he had met with the boy's family.

"It's just a terrible personal tragedy," he said.

King's College this morning opened its chapel for counselling assistance due to the death.

Parents were emailed requesting that any boys who wanted to come should bring a parent with them.  

About 50 students sought solace at the chapel. Clutching at tissues, the friends held on to each other as they came to grips with the tragic loss.

Some hugged, others shared fond memories of the dead student, while some sat in silence, shocked by the news.

A number of students told Stuff.co.nz that it was too painful to talk about their friend.

Parents, teachers and school counsellors stood by to offer support.

Reverend Warner Wilder said the students were stunned by the sudden death.

"I am just here to support them. We have had a lot of students through and held prayers.

"They're teenagers, they find strength from each other and their families, not so much themselves."

AMBULANCE CALLED TO BALL

King's College's ball was marred by  an alcohol-fuelled student death a year ago, and last night's ball again featured heavy drinking.

An ambulance was called and a paramedic said a party-goer was treated for being "very boozed".

An Eden Park function centre official, who did not give his name, said alcohol was not the only problem: "There are a lot of drugs in there."

The exclusive south Auckland school suffered three student deaths last year, including that of James Webster, who died after sculling vodka at a birthday party.

Ex-Auckland mayor John Banks, whose son Alex was last year pictured partying with Webster on the night the 16-year-old died, said the event cast a shadow over the private school.

"King's is now building a reputation for excess drinking and drug-taking. It's so sad."

Following Webster's death, coroner Gordon Matenga appealed for students to learn how to cope with alcohol but witnesses at last night's pre-ball and ball saw heavy consumption.

Around 80 people attended a pre-ball function last night, which included a bar and food, hosted by businessman Craig Norgate at an Auckland venue. A party bus picked up the students and took them to the ball.

"Some of the girls were struggling to walk toward the bus," one eye witness said.

At Eden Park last night 709 students and guests were locked into the venue and not allowed to leave until 11.30pm, although it appeared the policy was not strictly enforced.

A number of parents arrived to pick up their children through the evening. Some appeared angry at the behaviour of their children, some of whom were vomiting near the entrance of the function centre.

Students spoken to as they left said a large number of students had been drinking despite the liquor ban.

Those suspected of being under alcohol or drug influence were kept in a room until their parents arrived.

Students were warned that if they were found drunk they would be suspended from school.

Fenner said the "vast majority of students conducted themselves well," adding many party-goers were "guests" of students and not pupils at the school.

Fenner said drug and alcohol programmes following Webster's death had "been successful".

Sunday Star Times