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A distraught family faces a nightmarish three-month wait to find out what caused the death of their "super-fit, gorgeous" 11-year-old son.

"I would never have put him to bed if I'd known he wasn't going to wake up," says mum Mandy Palmer, fighting back tears as she tries to come to grips with the sudden, and so far unexplained, death of her "healthy, active" son Danyon Westwood.

The Year 7 pupil at Feilding Intermediate, was found dead by his sister Ashleigh, 13, on Tuesday morning.

"She had gone in to his room to wake him up for school," says Palmer, wrapping a protective arm around her daughter. "We thought he was playing possum. It was something he used to do... just lie there and then when we went in he would leap up.

"I pulled the covers off him. He was on his stomach, but he didn't move so I rolled him over and he was blue. He was still warm, but he was all blotchy and blue."

They started CPR and emergency services were called. "They only took about five minutes but it seemed like forever," says Palmer.

One of the first on the scene was Palmer's cousin, firefighter Malcolm Jensen. He was unable to resuscitate Danyon.

"There was just nothing to point to it," says Palmer. "He'd been playing at school on Monday afternoon, come home and had tea and then gone to play badminton...."

Fearing possible genetic links - Danyon also has a younger brother Kaleb - the family requested an autopsy be carried out as soon as possible.

However, the pathologist's report stated only that Danyon had died of "obscure causes".

After the family queried that, they were told by the coroner that further tests would be done, but it could be one to three months before the results were known.

Danyon's father Kevin Westwood says: "I've asked a couple of times about that, about why it's going to take so long, but all they've said is 'we're sorry but that's how it is'."

His grandmother Carlma Skinner adds: "It's been devastating without this further anguish. Without a reason it's even harder.

"Three months seems like forever at the moment, even one month is like forever when you have nothing. And Ashleigh and Kaleb are at that age where they're not silly - they're thinking about it."

She describes Danyon as the "life of the party" and a "happy, healthy boy who didn't have as much as a sniffle". "He and Kaleb were joined at the hip," says his father. "Like any kids they fought like anything, but they were great mates."

A Hurricanes supporter, Danyon was into sport and played rugby as well as badminton. He also loved skateboarding and BMX bikes.

"He built lots of things," Kaleb says. "He made BMX jumps and he helped me make a go-kart."

A service for Danyon - "a real cool kid", according to big sister Ashleigh - was held at Feilding Intermediate yesterday.

* Palmerston North coroner Tim Scott refused to discuss Danyon's death and the reasons for the long wait for test results. A duty coroner said one to three months was the accepted turnaround time for toxicology reports to be completed. The time taken also depended on the nature of the tests being done, she said.

Unexplained Deaths

Sudden Death in the young is not unusual. It is estimated there are about 100 sudden unexpected deaths in people aged up to 40 in New Zealand each year.

Of those about one-third are unexplained, but they are believed to be the result of unexplained viral infections (usually in infants up to a year old) and heart rhythm problems.

Two conditions - long QT (LQT) syndrome, which affects about one-in-2000 people, and catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT) are genetic.

"These are conditions where the individual tends to collapse during exercise or when they are stressed," says paediatric cardiologist Dr Jon Skinner. "And what we know is that in about 40 per cent of these young sudden deaths there is an inherited disease which causes the problem."

Skinner, who heads the Cardiac Inherited Disease Group which was recently set up to monitor sudden death in the young, says: "There hasn't been any means of properly investigating them previously, or a system to properly follow up with the families.

"What we would like to see is some sort of formal link which picks up on these cases who can contact us and the families and give them advice on what to do."

He recommends all members of families with a history of unexpected death be checked for cardiac arrhythmia.

"Of course a lot of the time we don't find anything, and that can be terribly difficult... The family may never get an answer, but if there is an answer and other people in the family are at risk, then it would be inexcusable to miss the opportunity to prevent their death."

Both LQT and CPVT could be prevented with medication, or, if necessary, a pacemaker, he said.