West Coast teen dies after playing drinking games

By | February 16, 2016

A teen has died after playing drinking games a party at a West Coast lake on Saturday.

According to police, 17-year-old Hokitika twin Mitchell Heward became unconscious after drinking heavily at a party in Lake Kaniere. It was not yet clear how much he consumed, but police said that it was “many bottles of beer and in the vicinity of half a bottle of spirits.” 

Heward was reportedly with a group of nine, with some below the legal drinking age. Police said that it was “binge drinking at its worst.”

Emergency services and people at the lake (including an off-duty doctor) tried to save Heward, but he did not make it.

Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Tiernan said that the group were using a funnel, and drinking alcohol out of a plastic tube. “It was a lot of young people not drinking socially, but drinking stupidly and on this occasion it ended with tragic consequences,” he said.

“[The group] were pouring alcohol into a funnel and drinking it out of a plastic tube, which is binge-drinking in the extreme by people that are young and inexperienced and who don’t have the ability to cope with that. Mitchell has paid a terrible price.”

Professor Doug Sellman, director of the National Addiction Centre at Otago University, told reporters that there were about 30 to 40 alcohol poisoning deaths every year. A lot of these were teenagers “naive to the toxic effects of alcohol.”

There is no age limit at which it’s illegal to drink in New Zealand, but there are rules in supplying alcohol to anyone below 18, unless 1) “The person supplying alcohol is the parent or legal guardian and it is supplied responsibly,” and “The person supplying alcohol has the consent of the young person’s parent or legal guardian.”

Read more about the country’s alcohol laws here.