Tragic teens dead after sniffing aerosols
Published 24/07/2009 | 00:29
These are the faces of two teenage girls from Northern Ireland whose promising futures were snatched away by the horrors of substance abuse.
Seventeen-year-old Louise Kidd (left) and Anna Peake (16) never met but their heartbroken families are united in grief over their senseless deaths from inhaling aerosols.
Their loss serves as the starkest warning of the fatal dangers of abusing substances for a quick and cheap high.
Anna Peake was an impressive athlete from east Belfast who had been told by Olympic |legend Mary Peters she should be training to compete at London 2012. The teenager, who inhaled a can of aerosol in half an hour, suffered a heart attack in May last year. Louise Kidd was a “bubbly, lovely girl” who had celebrated her 17th birthday just three days before her body was found in her Banbridge home last August.
She was excited to have “turned a corner” in her troubled past and was building an independent life.
After an inquest in Belfast yesterday, Anna’s heartbroken father David said: “If I was to go into a chemist I could only buy 12 paracetamol tablets but youngsters can go in and buy as many aerosols as they want and very cheaply.”
Tragedy of the teen tipped for Olympics
By Rebecca Black
A promising young Belfast athlete — who was told by Olympic legend Mary Peters she should be training for London 2012 — died from a heart attack after inhaling aerosol from a deodorant can.
The parents of Anna Elizabeth Peake called for a review of the availability of aerosols after the 16-year-old died while abusing cans with her boyfriend in May last year.
The teenager’s inquest heard yesterday that her death was “one of a tragically long line of deaths of young girls and boys in these kind of circumstances”.
The hearing in Belfast was told that Anna, from Govan Drive, Tullycarnet, suffered a heart attack in her bed after inhaling around one and a half aerosol cans with her 18-year-old boyfriend Sammy Bell while watching television.
KFC worker Mr Bell, who had been Anna’s boyfriend for 18 months, bought six cans of Body Reactive deodorant earlier in the day for just 99p each.The inquest heard they had been taking the substances for several months before her death.
Although he was not at yesterday’s hearing, Mr Bell’s statement was read out in court and recalled Anna saying she did not feel well after inhaling a can in half an hour. He described her starting a second can but moments later “she sat up very suddenly and then fell back onto the pillow, her eyes had rolled back and her lips went a strange colour”.
Mr Bell called for help and Ms Peake’s father David, a recovered drug addict, carried her off the bed to a firm surface before administering CPR for around ten minutes before paramedics arrived and took over. She was pronounced dead shortly before 2am.
Pathologist Dr Lyness said the cause of death was inhaling a mixture of propane, butane and isobutane — used to propel the substances from their container.
Mrs Peake said she had caught her daughter sniffing nail polish two years earlier at the age of 14 with a friend and had “taken the head off her” for it.
“I called her in for her dinner one evening and caught her and another girl down a back alley sniffing nail polishes,” she said.
“I slapped her and we were both upset but she promised me she would never do it again.”
She said she had trusted her daughter and was not aware that she was continuing to abuse aerosols. Mrs Peake said her daughter was a “good kid” who got good marks in her classes at Newtownbreda High School and excelled in sport.
“She was very athletic, she did the sprint running, shot putt and javelin. She met Mary Peters at a competition who was very impressed with her. She said Anna would have a lot of potential in the pentathlon and should start working towards the 2012 Olympics,” she said. “She always had a smile on her face and seemed very popular. She was adamant she wanted to become a police woman.”
Mr Peake, who had been looking after his children that week, said his suspicions had been aroused when his daughter had appeared the morning before her death with a red mark on her face.
“As someone who had been in rehab for both alcohol and drugs, I suppose I’d notice the signs quicker than perhaps others, but when she promised me she was not abusing aerosols, I took her at her word,” he said.
“The danger of it is that it (death) can be instant, it just takes one time. They need to put bigger warnings on the aerosol cans and find a way of limiting people buying a large number of them — if I was to go into a chemist I could only buy 12 paracetamol tablets, but youngsters can go in and buy as many aerosols as they want.”
Summing up, Coroner Brian Sherrard said: “The message really has to go out as we have heard from Dr (James) Lyness that this is an exceptionally dangerous practice and people are vulnerable to suffering from oxygen deprivation and also heart attacks when they indulge in this practice. It is something that has to be very carefully monitored.”
Best birthday ever, then she died
By Victoria O’Hara
The mother of a teenage girl who died three days after celebrating her 17th birthday after abusing solvents said she was aware her daughter had taken drugs in the past but believed she had “turned a corner” in her life.
Louise Kidd (17) from Hillhead Gardens, Banbridge, was found dead on her living room floor on August 3 last year after inhaling an aerosol.
She was described yesterday during an inquest into her death as a “bubbly, lovely girl”.
However, the court in Newry also heard the teenager had experienced a “troubled life” and had moved to supported housing for vulnerable young people just four months before.
Her parents Andrew and Theresa Kidd, now separated, told the court she had recently got a job and was “very positive” about the future.
The court heard that after the breakdown of the family unit Louise had been looked after by her grandparents and then in foster care.
Both parents said they knew their daughter had abused aerosols in the past.
Mr Kidd said he had caught her sniffing aerosols about one year before she died but had confronted her and believed she had stopped.
Mrs Kidd told the court that after moving into Anderson House in Banbridge, a project run by Belfast Central Mission for 16 to 21-year-olds, her daughter was positive about life.
“I was proud of her. She had turned her life around as far as I was aware. She had stopped it all (taking drugs),” she said.
Witness Tracey Sheridan, who worked at Anderson House, said during one of her last conversations Louise said she had just had the “best birthday ever”.
She said the teenager had told her she had been in a “bad place in the last year but was now happy and settled”.
“She was a bubbly, pleasant, upbeat girl,” she said.
Ms Sheridan said Louise told her she had “dabbled” with drugs in the past but not now.
Jacqui Torrens, a support worker in Anderson House, told the court she discovered Louise’s “lifeless” body on the floor at around 7pm.
She said she checked for a pulse but the young girl was “cold and stiff”.
The court heard the Banbridge project was shut down within months as a “direct result” of Louise’s death.
A pathologist’s report confirmed the cause of death as the inhalation of propane and butane. Coroner Joanna Donnelly warned of the dangers of solvent abuse adding that it was “shameful” that a young person in today’s society could die in this way.
Speaking outside court Mrs Kidd told the Belfast Telegraph parents need to remain vigilant for drug abuse.
“It is important young people realise the dangers that are linked to drugs, and any substance abuse. More support is needed here for young people who are struggling with these problems,” she said.