Death by hanging accidental, coroner rules

01:56, May 04 2012

A "fatal error" while practising knot tying ended in the accidental hanging of a Motueka teenager, a coroner has found.

Coroner Carla na Nagara today released her findings into the death last year of 15-year-old Ethan Herron, ruling his death as accidental rather than suicide.

About 6pm on April 17 last year, Greta Herron went outside to tell her son it was getting late and he needed to come inside - he had spent that afternoon among trees and bushes playing with his great grandfather's electric drill.

About 2 hours earlier she had asked him if he wanted to go for a walk up to the cemetery with her, to which he replied "no thanks". She called out to him again on her way back - about half and hour later - but he did not reply.

In her evidence, she said it appeared as though her son was kneeling down and had his eyes closed. She said she thought her son was just ignoring her.

However when she went to call him inside that evening, there was still no response.

It wasn't until she and Ethan's grandfather - Gavin Scott - went out with a spray bottle full of water intending to spray him as a joke, that they discovered him on his knees being held up by the power drill cord wrapped tightly around his neck.

They tried to remove the cord but it was too tight, and Scott had to run back to the house to get a knife to cut it.

Ethan was not breathing and had no pulse but Scott began CPR until the ambulance arrived. Ethan could not be revived.

In a post mortem examination, the pathologist noted a "clearly defined hanging mark" around Ethan's upper neck, along with bones in his voice box which had been fractured - consistent with death by hanging.

The day before his death, Ethan, his mother and grandparents had travelled to his great-grandfather's place to spend a night there. In her findings, na Nagara said Ethan had entertained himself on the car trip by practising knot tying, from a knot tying book he had.

After Ethan's death, an investigation found the knot tying book was still in the car.

His family described Ethan as a bright boy, who had a strong set of friends and enjoyed school. He had planned on starting a part-time job at a local supermarket so he could save for an X-Box.

In her evidence, Greta Herron said "I think he was just mucking around with various knots he had seen in the book and just goofing about and put it around his neck and either slipped or pulled the wrong bit of it and not been able to loosen it."

Na Nagara said there was no evidence that Ethan was suicidal.

"Overwhelmingly, the evidence before me paints a picture of a happy, well-adjusted boy who enjoyed his family and friends," na Nagara said.

"Having considered the evidence before I considered it more likely than not, that Ethan has made a fatal error while practicing tying knots. I accordingly find the Ethan died as a result of an accident," the coroner said.

* This story has been edited. It incorrectly reported that Gavin Scott was Ethan's stepdad.