Young father 'drank himself to death'

A close relative of a young dad who died on the pool table he was trying to win by downing a bottle of vodka says the man was not a "heavy drinker".

Father of three Joshua Leigh Taunoa died after losing a series of drinking games at birthday celebrations with cousins in July.

The 26-year-old freezing worker from Manawatu had a blood alcohol level of 333 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood - more than four times the legal driving limit.

Mr Taunoa and three cousins, some of whom had come from Australia for the occasion, started drinking and playing cards about 10pm at a relative's home in Feilding.

Palmerston North Coroner Tim Scott said the group was playing drinking games, which Mr Taunoa lost many times.

They later went out to a garage where they started playing pool. Mr Taunoa wanted to buy the table but one of the family members would not sell it.

"Thereupon Josh picked up a bottle of vodka that was mostly full and stated that if he drank the whole bottle he could have the table," Mr Scott said.

The person who owned the table and the rest of the group "approved" of the suggestion, he said.

However, after Mr Taunoa had consumed about half the bottle, his cousins realised it was not sensible and made up a bed for him on the pool table, turned him on his side and left him asleep.

About 6am the following morning, a family member saw him and he was obviously asleep because he was snoring.

However, just two hours later, another family member discovered him dead.

Mr Scott said at the time of his death, Mr Scott was "grossly intoxicated".

"In simple and real terms, Josh drank himself to death. In an attempt - while probably already intoxicated - to drink a large quantity of spirits in the belief that by doing so he could acquire a pool table which he desired."

A close family member of Mr Taunoa, who did not want to be named, said he was not a drinker and he drank on that July night only because he was celebrating with close cousins.

"He wasn't a heavy drinker at all."

She said the whole family were in shock to find out it was his drinking that caused his death.

"Had he known that it would have caused his death he would never (have drunk so much) - he's got three little boys that he loved very much."

The relative said Mr Taunoa had a "breathing problem" that could have contributed to his death.

She said it was a tragic end to such a young life.


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