'Senseless' New Zealand binge drinking culture led to teen's death

  • 26/04/2018

A coroner has highlighted issues with New Zealand's binge drinking culture after the 'senseless' death of a teenager who drank himself to death. 

Mitchell Heward,17, died in February 2016 after consuming an excess amount of alcohol at Lake Kaniere, on the West Coast. 

A toxicology report found Mitchell had 349 mcg/100ml of alcohol in his system. 

He wasn't driving but for comparison, the report said this was almost seven times more than the legal blood alcohol limit for a driver over 20 years old. 

Mitchell and a group of friends aged between 14 and 18 years old had gone to Lake Kaniere, intending to camp overnight.

They drank a significant amount of alcohol. Mitchell drank beer, vodka and Midori before losing consciousness and choking on his own vomit. He could not be revived.

The teen's death was a "tragic consequence of excessive alcohol consumption by a young person, in a group in which pressure to drink was applied," Coroner Anna Tutton said in her findings. 

"His death was senseless, and a sad illustration of the prevalent drinking culture.

"It is critical that young drinkers, particularly, appreciate the seriousness of the dangers of binge drinking, and know what to do if someone becomes unresponsive after drinking."

The alcohol was supplied by two members of the group Adam Adcock and Brendan Perrin, who were 18 and 21 at the time of the incident. 

Both men were charged with supplying alcohol to Mitchell, who was under 18. 

Mr Adcock was found not guilty while Mr Perrin was discharged without conviction.