A night of "binge drinking" before a mountain biking trip led to the the death of a Dunedin furniture remover, Otago-Southland Coroner David Crerar has ruled.

In a decision released yesterday, Mr Crerar said Philip Ross Bergman, 27, died on October 26, 2012, at the Snow Farm in the Cardrona Valley near Queenstown.

Mr Bergman was with a group of 10 people who had consumed a significant number of drinks "including beer, sake bombs, Jager bombs and whisky and cola" until 3am on the day of their mountain bike trip.

In the morning, Mr Bergman told his friends he was unwell and "hung over".


As the group walked up a hill to view part of the bike track, Mr Bergman fell to the ground.

He lost consciousness and although CPR was administered and an ambulance and rescue helicopter attended, he could not be revived.

Specialist pathologist Dr Martha Nicholson found "a trace of alcohol" in Mr Bergman's blood.

She commented on an association between "fatty changes within the liver due to excessive alcohol consumption and sudden arrhythmic death".

"These deaths typically occur with a negative or low blood alcohol.

"The mechanism of death is not fully understood but thought to be due to a variety of metabolic disturbances triggered by massive ethanol intake and starvation, resulting in cardiac arrhythmia."

She noted Mr Bergman's body mass was in the obese range and he had an enlarged heart (cardiomegaly).

Mr Bergman's mother, Jenny Bergman, sought an independent opinion from British consultant pathologist Dr Motex Al-Izzi who said at the time of Mr Bergman's death the level of alcohol in his blood was "not raised".

"The circumstantial evidence points more towards a cardiac event, rather than an alcohol-related event."

However, Mr Crerar found that were it not for the consumption of a significant amount of alcohol, "the death of Philip Bergman would not have occurred when it did, or how it did".

He found Mr Bergman's death was due to cardiac arrhythmia, being a syndrome of alcohol-related sudden death complicating hepatosteatosis [fatty liver] and cardiomegaly.