Alcohol laws partly to blame for fatal plunge


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Coroner advocates 3am close for bars and liquor outlets after fall


A coroner's report into the death of Wanganui man Kenneth David Low highlights the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, with a warning about bars open after 3am or with 24-hour opening in Wellington.

Mr Low, 20, died in Wellington in December 2010 after falling 20m from the balcony of an apartment in Taranaki St.

Coroner Ian Smith yesterday released his findings into Mr Low's death.

"In relation to this death, there are issues surrounding the amount of alcohol consumed by this young man, the availability to alcohol in Wellington at all times of the night, and consideration of the apartment environment in Wellington central," Mr Smith said.

In his report, Mr Smith said Mr Low and a friend had arrived in Wellington on December 8 for a short stay, and went out drinking. He met with another friend who said he could sleep on the floor of his apartment in Taranaki St.

In the morning of December 12, Mr Low was seen by a neighbour sitting on a wide ledge on a balcony outside the sixth-storey apartment. His right leg was over the edge of the balcony, and when the neighbour next looked, Mr Low was lying on the ground below.

The post-report report said Mr Low died from severe blunt force injuries to the head, chest and abdomen. At the time of death, he had a blood alcohol level of 237mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Mr Smith said Mr Low had not eaten a meal on the evening of December 11, and had begun drinking that afternoon. He visited 11 inner city bars during the evening and returned to his friend's apartment just after 5.30am on December 12. He died at about 7am.

Mr Smith said he was "very concerned" at the large number of alcohol outlets in the Wellington CBD, and also the hours they are open to the public. He said it was not uncommon for an alcohol outlet to have a closing time of 5am or 6am, or even a 24-hour licence.

"It is my view that 3am is late enough for facilities to be open to service liquor to patrons."

He said the new Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act was likely to curb the amount of alcohol outlets and the amount of time they can operate.

Mr Smith also noted that although the apartment building was fully compliant, the fact the balcony rail had a 30cm-wide ledge on top "does rather defeat the purpose of it being a protective barrier".

However, Mr Smith said the primary cause of Mr Low's death was the excessive amount of alcohol he had drunk.

"Notwithstanding all of the above, I acknowledge that Mr Low was severely under the influence of alcohol, which was the main contributor to his fatal plunge."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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