Teen charged after girl's near-death on vodka

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 11:22 22/08/2014

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Police have arrested and charged an 18-year-old Cromwell woman after a 16-year-old nearly died after drinking vodka.

Sergeant Simon Paget, of Cromwell, said the woman was charged with supplying alcohol to a minor and would appear in the Alexandra District Court on September 17.

The charge comes after a Cromwell High School pupil was found ''out cold'' on a grass verge on Erris St about 10pm on Wednesday, last week.

A man about to walk his dog found the girl in front of his property. She was unconscious and covered in vomit after drinking a bottle of vodka with friends near the Cromwell Golf Club.

Paget said the girl had hypothermia, and the man had probably saved her life.

''If she was out there another hour, she would have died . . . it took hospital staff some time to get her temperature up.''

Temperatures were extremely cold that night, dropping to minus 5 degrees Celsius, he said.

The girl had been drinking with a group, who were all very intoxicated. They separated and drifted off home, he said. ''The girl has been on her own when she has come to be in the position she was found in.''

By chance, Peter Green found the girl lying unconscious on the grass verge at the front of his property as he left to take his dog for a walk.

Initially, thinking it was a bag of rubbish, he was horrified to discover the young girl, his wife Wanda said.

He went inside and got his wife and a torch and they checked to see if she was breathing, then rang the police.

"It was a terrible thing to see,'' Wanda Green said.

''She had vomited. She was lying in the recovery position. We couldn't see her face - her hair was flopped over. She was non-responsive. She had been carrying her shoes, and her trousers were down a bit.

''It was very cold that night - we never heard any voices. She could have been out there for hours.''

St John Ambulance spokesman Ian Henderson said the girl was taken to Dunstan Hospital in a serious condition.

Paget said the girl was suffering from hypothermia and was lucky the Greens found her when they did.

The incident illustrated the dangers of supplying alcohol to young people, he said.

''Supplying a bottle of high-alcohol vodka to a 16-year-old is completely unacceptable and this illustrates how disastrous the consequences are.''

Police had come across grossly intoxicated youth before, he said.

''It's not something we run into every week. We have noticed an improvement since the legislation came in and of late we have prosecuted four people - male and female - for supplying alcohol to minors.

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''It seems to be the 18 to 20 age group supplying to 16-year-olds and getting themselves in trouble. We really want to communicate the message they face prosecution and if they do supply to a minor, there can be pretty severe consequences.''

Cromwell College principal Mason Stretch said the girl was one of his pupils and the school was "shocked" at the incident.

"I have not heard of any other incident in my time here.

''We are relieved that the student has recovered. People made mistakes there. It could have been much worse so we are relieved.''

The school had extensive alcohol education within its health programme, Stretch said.

- The Southland Times

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