4 Jul 2012

Chief Coroner orders review of butane gas deaths

7:02 pm on 4 July 2012

The Chief Coroner has ordered a review into more than 30 deaths from butane gas inhalation in the past five years.

The announcement comes after the LPG cylinders Brendon McLeod, 17, and Jamie Jury, 18, were using to get high at a house in Mosgiel near Dunedin exploded on Monday, leaving them seriously injured.

McLeod has burns to three-quarters of his body and is in Auckland's Middlemore Hospital receiving specialised care. Mr Jury remains in a serious condition in Dunedin Hospital's intensive care unit.

A Wellington coroner recently revealed there had been 28 deaths between 2007 and 2011 involving so-called butane 'huffing', and there has been at least one more this year involving a 12-year-old boy.

Following Monday's explosion, Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean has instructed his office to review all deaths linked to inhalation of the gas.

Judge MacLean says the investigation will not be in-depth, but will include a look at previous coroners' findings to see whether their recommendations have been followed up.

The review will also involve Australian coroners and liaison with the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, which is also working on substance abuse.

Judge MacLean says his review will only take a few days.

Sister speaks out

Jennifer Jury, the sister of one of the injured teens, told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme no-one should get into huffing because of the damage it could do to their families.

"If he makes it, he's got to live with this for the rest of his life. It's not just him - it's me, my dad and my granddad and everyone that knows Jamie. They're going to have to look at him - it's not going to be easy.

"He's not just done it to himself, he's done it to everyone and everyone needs to know that."

Ms Jury says her brother is in an induced coma and needs to be transferred to an Auckland burns unit, but is too sick to move.