Huffing death: uncle's plea

17:00, May 05 2012
Kim's Market in New Brighton.
BUTANE TRAGEDY: Kim's Market in New Brighton.

The uncle of a Christchurch boy who died after inhaling butane from a canister says the issues surrounding his nephew's death need to be addressed before another child dies.

The victim was Darius Claxton, 12.

"I truly believe there is a massive issue around this," his uncle, Jeremy Claxton, said in an email to the Sunday Star-Times.

"[It] should be brought to light for any parent or family member that may be in the same frustrating circle that my sister [the boy's mother] has now found herself in.

"There is a real problem with youth gangs and gang culture in Christchurch.

"It's more than just the shoplifting, the bunking school, the bullying and the drugs and alcohol."


These issues, which were present not just in low-decile schools, needed to be addressed "before another young child dies".

Emergency services were called to the scene at 11.20pm on Friday but attempts to resuscitate the boy were unsuccessful and he died at the scene.

Detective Sergeant Earle Borrell said the death highlighted the dangers of butane inhalation, often referred to as huffing.

"We haven't ruled out the possibility that alcohol consumption was involved too, so we'll have to wait for the tests."

Borrell said that although it was not illegal to sell butane, retailers needed to "question their morals"."People need to think about things more ... young boys coming into a shop and buying butane, well, it needs to be questioned."

The Sunday Star-Times understands the canisters were bought from Kim's Market in New Brighton.

A tribute page for the boy was set up on social networking site Facebook yesterday.

Christchurch city councillor for the Burwood-Pegasus ward Peter Beck described the death as a "terrible tragedy".

"For someone so young ... it's just a terrible waste of life and it's very tragic."

Beck said more public awareness was needed of the dangers of solvent abuse.

"In my time as dean of the Christ Church Cathedral I often dealt with issues of solvent abuse but I have never been aware of butane inhalation."

Police have referred the case to the coroner and a post-mortem examination will be held tomorrow.

Inhaling butane can cause inhibited cardiac and respiratory function, disturbance of the heart's rhythm and anoxia.

Last year 19-year-old James Cessford of Dunedin died after huffing butane.

At the time, specialist forensic pathologist Dr Martin Sage said the gas was the most commonly abused inhalant in New Zealand. It was readily available and its use carried a significant risk of death.

Sunday Star Times