Northern Ireland news

Coroner warns about dangers of inhaling gas after death of 16-year-old Co Armagh boy

An inquest into the death of Shane Richardson heard that he had inhaled butane and propane gas

A CORONER has warned young people about the dangers of inhaling gas after a 16-year-old Co Armagh boy "paid the price with his own life".

Shane Richardson from Portadown collapsed and died on August 22 2017 after inhaling butane and propane gas.

An inquest yesterday heard how his father found him unresponsive on the floor of his bedroom. Empty butane cannisters were discovered in his room, including one lying on his bed.

State pathologist Dr James Lyness said Shane would have suffered a "very rapid death" after inhaling the butane and propane, which are commonly used aerosol gases.

Shane's father Stephen described how the family had tried to stop him taking drugs and weeks before his death, he had found 10 'blues' tablets.

Mr Richardson said hours before his son's death, he had warned him again about the dangers of drugs.

"He was very agitated, but I think he'd been on the stuff over the weekend and he was coming down from it," he said.

"It was just that morning I said to him, 'Shane if you don't change your ways, you're not going to see your 20th birthday'."

Mr Richardson said after leaving the house, he returned at around 1.15pm and found Shane "on the floor on his back".

"I shouted down to my partner to ring for an ambulance and I started CPR. I started to say, 'Shane, stay with me'."

The teenager was rushed to Craigavon Area Hospital, but he died.

Mr Richardson said he was later told by one of Shane's friends that "if he couldn't afford cannabis, he would buy the gas".

"There was no talking to Shane, he would have done his own thing," said Mr Richardson.

"Everyone saw it coming, but couldn't do anything to stop it."

Friend Mark Crowe told how he had met Shane on the morning he died and it was "it was the worst I'd ever seen him".

"He told me he had taken 40 'blues' over the weekend."

When asked by coroner Patrick McGurgan if Shane had mentioned inhaling gas, Mr Crowe replied, "No... I wasn't aware of him taking gas."

Morgan Ritchie, who had been with Shane in the days before he died, failed to attend court to give evidence.

In his statement read in his absence, he said they had been "hanging round Tandragee" on August 18, before returning to Shane's house.

He said Shane brought out a "yellow gas cannister and pressed it into the corner of his mouth... he kept doing it".

Mr Ritchie said he "told him not to do it" but Shane continued.

Dr Lyness told the court that butane and propane had been found in Shane's bloodstream and brain and the substances were "responsible for his death".

He said when inhaled they "can cause sudden death" but such deaths are "quite rare... we are really dealing with a handful, just one or two".

Cannabis was also found in his body.

Mr McGurgan recorded Shane's death tragic death as "accidental", but said it should "remind young people of the dangers of inhaling gas".

"I believe Shane, like so very many other young people, believe they are totally invincible and they know better and they don't want to draw on our life experiences to guide them," he said.

He added: "You can ultimately pay the price with your own life."

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