Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean is critical of the Northland District Health Board and one of its doctors for failing to notify his office about a Kaitaia man's death after doing the ice challenge and drinking a large amount of spirits.

Willis Tepania, a 40-year-old father, took the "ice challenge" last Saturday night.

He is believed to have then consumed a large quantity of bourbon within minutes - possibly as much as a full litre bottle - and five hours later suffered a cardiac arrest. It is understood he died in Whangarei Hospital on Monday night.

The death was not referred to the coroner in a timely matter and paper work was not filed until after Mr Tepania's funeral.


Judge MacLean said he was "concerned" at Northland DHB staff's response to the death.

"It seems a doctor was prepared to sign a death certificate in circumstances that, in my opinion, were not appropriate. I am satisfied there are issues surrounding the death that meant the duty coroner should have been notified promptly," he said. "It has also emerged that the standard report of death form that is prepared by the hospital for the duty coroner was prepared but not sent for some days.

"When the duty coroner was finally informed and took jurisdiction of the death, it emerged Mr Tepania's body was already buried.

"My office will be raising the matter with the Northland Chief Medical Officer."

The case has been referred to Coroner Wallace Bain.

Northland DHB spokeswoman Liz Inch said the health board would not comment: "This case is in the hands of the coroner."

The ice challenge has become a viral phenomenon in New Zealand and around the world. It involves a participant submerging themselves in ice cold water or having a bucket of ice water poured over them. They then nominate others to take the challenge and make a donation to charity.

But in countless online videos, the exercise is conducted hand-in-hand with the consumption of a lot of alcohol.


Vicki Moses, who started an ice challenge to fundraise for her 5-year-old son Austin, also in Kaitaia, said drinking did not need to be part of it.

The Cancer Society, which benefits from the ice challenge donations, has also warned against drinking.

"Cancer Society cares about your health and well being and so does not support the consumption of alcohol as part of this challenge," it says on one of its websites.

"If you decide to take on the ice challenge please remember to be safe and responsible."

APN News & Media