The chief coroner has criticised the Northland doctor and the district health board for failing to notify his office about the death of Willis Tepania, who died after doing the ice challenge and drinking a bottle of Jim Beam.

The Herald revealed this morning Mr Tepania had done the ice challenge on Saturday night and followed it with a large volume of bourbon. About five hours later, he suffered a heart attack.

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 Tapani's funeral.


Today, Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said he was "concerned" with the response to the death by Northland DHB staff.

"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.

"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," he said in a statement.

The case has now been referred to Coroner Wallace Bain.

Liz Inch, spokeswoman for the Northland DHB, said the health board would not make comment regarding their apparent mishandling of the matter.

"This case is in the hands of the coroner and Northland DHB will not be commenting any further," she said.