Cause of tourist's death at Queenstown backpackers revealed

By Solbin Kang

American tourist Corey Richard Docherty fell from a fire escape at a Queenstown backpackers last year. Photo / Supplied
American tourist Corey Richard Docherty fell from a fire escape at a Queenstown backpackers last year. Photo / Supplied

An American tourist who fell from a fire escape at a Queenstown backpackers died of severe traumatic brain injuries, Coroner David Crerar has found.

Corey Richard Docherty, a tourist from Massachusetts in the United States of America, was discovered at the a foot of the fire escape at 'The Base' Backpackers in Queenstown at 8.30am on February 6 last year.

He died four days later at Dunedin hospital on February 10.

Mr Docherty, 22 at the time, was described as being cold and covered in blood and vomit when he was found.

His sister Chanel Docherty said in her statement, she and her brother were drinking with other friends at a bar in central Queenstown on February 5.

She left at about midnight.

Trevor McLean, who was part of the group drinking, said he left at about 2.30am and Mr Docherty remained drinking.

Suzanne Tait, the intensive care paramedic who was at the scene, said Mr Docherty was conscious, but was confused and didn't know where he was.

She said he had a four-centimetre laceration to the back of his head and his jeans were around his ankles.

By the time he arrived in hospital, his level of consciousness had deteriorated and the incident was reported to Police.

Detective Watt reviewed a CCTV footage that showed Mr Docherty walked alone to a fire exit door located from the first floor of the backpackers.

Both Detective Lisa Colleen Watt and Sergeant Tracy Haggart were aware of the location as there had previously been a fatal fall at the same area.

They found Mr Docherty pushed the fire exit door by touching the middle of the door, allowing it to open onto the fire exit landing area.

Detective Colleen said the door was "magnetically controlled door security system and the door should not have normally been insecure in this way".

The footage then showed the man walking out and the door shutting behind him.

Constable Robert John Murray said while it was unclear why Mr Docherty went out the first floor fire escape, he would "need to move up and down the fire escape to re-enter the backpackers and in doing so, it appears that he has fallen to the pathway below where he was later discovered".

A Police investigation concluded no fault was found with the doors, when it was checked by electricians.

The exit door was slightly insecure, and Mr Docherty was able to open the door with a simple push, rather than accessing an exit button.

A CT scan at Dunedin hospital where Mr Docherty was admitted, found there were multiple areas of haemorrhage in his brain and a spinal fracture was also discovered.

A post-mortem conducted by pathologist doctor Ming-Chang Yu concluded Mr docherty died of severe traumatic brain injury.

Coroner Crerar acknowledged the previous death in the same alleyway were "different" but "both deaths are related to the degree of intoxication of the deceased person".

He concluded Mr Docherty died due to the amount of alcohol consumed.

At the time of his fall, he had a blood alcohol concentration of more than 150 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, Coroner Crerar concluded.

"If he had been sober, there is a possibility that he could have descended the fire escape safely."

Coroner Crerar also concluded there was evidence medical care fell below the standards when the man was admitted to Queenstown Lakes Hospital and Dunedin Hospital.

He also concluded doctor Morne Pienaar and his team who were treating Mr Docherty at the time, could have cooled him rather than re-warm him as he had brain injuries.

- NZ Herald

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