Post-mortem on teen who died at party

A post-mortem examination is being carried out today on a teenager who died after drinking alcohol, including home-brewed spirits, at an 18th birthday party in south Auckland on Saturday.

Tyson Devon was in cardiac arrest when emergency services arrived at the Papakura address about 6.30pm and he died at the scene.

The 18-year-old died despite desperate attempts by friends and paramedics to revive him.

Senior Sergeant Spencer Matthews said the teenagers had ingested a range of drinks, including home-brewed spirits, at the party.

Tyson "drank far too much in a far too short space of time, and his body has suffered the effects".

Police wouldn't comment on the cause of death until receiving the results of the post-mortem examination, but it is understood methanol poisoning is one possibility.

National Poisons Centre medical toxicologist John Fountain said methanol poisoning from home-brewed spirits was relatively rare in New Zealand, but did happen, and could cause blindness or death.

"The methanol acts very much like ethanol initially; it's an inebriating compound and you do get a very similar effect from it.

"The difficulty with methanol is it is broken down by the body into other compounds and those compounds are toxic."

Methanol is produced in the distilling process but removed when done professionally, Dr Fountain said. One of the most effective treatments was ingesting ethanol.

"The same enzyme that breaks down the methanol also breaks down the ethanol, so if you keep that enzyme busy breaking down the ethanol the methanol can be excreted from the body before it forms this toxic metabolite. Indeed, I've recommended to doctors around the country to get a bottle of Johnnie Walker or something like that."

In June, Taranaki man Denis Duthie went blind after suffering methanol poisoning while drinking vodka. He regained his sight only after hospital staff administered expensive whisky.

However, people should go straight to hospital if they suspect methanol poisoning rather than try to treat it themselves, Dr Fountain said.

Kiwi-born teenager Liam Davies died from methanol poisoning after drinking a vodka and lime mix on New Year's Day while holidaying in Indonesia.

- Matthew Theunissen of APNZ

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