6 Oct 2010

Student drank heavily at weekends, inquest told

10:05 pm on 6 October 2010

A King's College pupil who died after an Auckland party was a heavy drinker at the weekends, an inquest has been told.

James Webster, a 16-year-old boarder at the college, died on 9 May this year after drinking at a private function at the Returned Services Club in Grey Lynn.

An inquest into his death began at the Coroner's Court on Wednesday.

Police say the teenager died of acute alcohol poisoning. The inquest was told he had an alcohol level nearly five times the limit for adult drivers, and 13 times the limit for someone his age.

A friend of James Webster's, Danielle Carter, told the inquest that she did not see him drinking at the venue.

However, she said he drank to the point of being comatose every second weekend and had started drinking heavily from about the start of this year.

She said she would send him text messages and get replies from his friends saying that he was passed out.

Rachel Carter helped organise the joint birthday party, and told the inquest of finding the teenager's body.

Ms Carter said she took James Webster to her home after he was found vomiting and moaning in a carpark, and by the time he had been put to bed he had passed out.

She said checked on him as soon as she woke in the morning. "The house kind of had an eerie feeling and I went straight into the bedroom."

Ms Carter said the boy was cold, and when she shook him she knew he was dead.

Another parent who organised the party told the lawyer for James Webster's parents that she never expected alcohol to be brought in, and therefore did not ask the security guard to check for it.

Jacqueline Palmer said it never crossed her mind that under-age people would bring their own liquor.

Death from acute alcohol poisoning

Sergeant Paul Black told the inquest that James Webster was drinking during a period of 2 to 2½ hours.

He said toxicology reports showed the teenager's body had 391mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The limit for drivers under 20 is 30mg, while the adult limit is 80mg.

Mr Black said the Returned Services Club where the function took place was supposed to have a special licence, but did not have one.

He said a liquor licence would have been granted if the club had applied for one.

Mr Black says the person believed to have given the alcohol to James Webster has refused to make any statement after receiving legal advice.