Teen's party fire death avoidable – Coroner

  • 22/12/2015
Mihinui Tamiana (File)
Mihinui Tamiana (File)

A coroner says a potent combination of alcohol and teenage thrill-seeking behaviour led to a Rotorua teen's death in a fire at a party.

Mihinui Tamiana, 14, was killed after a blaze broke out in an industrial building in June 2013.

Police broke up a party of about 100 people at the factory about three hours before the blaze and arrested a 15-year-old boy and three 16-year-old boys for disorder.

Coroner Wallace Bain has released his findings into the teen's death.

According to his report, a group of youths set up the factory for a party, using petrol-powered generators for power.

Although those particular generators were for outside use only, the teens set them up in an internal room with no access to ventilation.

During the night they refuelled one generator by pouring petrol from a bucket – spilling it over the floor in the process.

By 2am, only five people, including Ms Tamiana, were left and they climbed up to a mezzanine floor to sleep.

When the fire broke out, four of the teens jumped down 4m to a loading bay floor, but Ms Tamiana hesitated and was overcome by heat and smoke.

No alcohol or drugs were found in her system.

"She has regrettably been the victim of a most tragic death in circumstances that were totally avoidable and should never have happened," Coroner Bain said.

Fire investigators advised the petrol cap for a generator was on the floor, meaning the air would have been saturated with petrol vapour and a naked flame could start a fire.

Police believe the fire probably started when someone used a cigarette lighter as a light source while checking the generator, although no one was identified as doing so.

Coroner Bain commented the "stupidity of young people unsupervised with alcohol" created a series of errors that resulted in a fatality.

It was stupid to have used the two generators inside, and then "unbelievably" light a cigarette lighter, he said.

Seventeen-year-old boy Danya Hansen, who threw the party, received extensive burns and was hospitalised, but was cleared of criminal culpability.

Coroner Bain noted his sympathy for the building's owner, who had no prior knowledge of the party.

He made no recommendations.

NZN