Two Rotorua brothers continued to smoke synthetic cannabis to the point of needing emergency services help on two occasions in the hours after the drug likely killed their father.

The shocking details of synthetic cannabis use following the death of Nia John Taoho have been made public in a coroner's finding released to the Rotorua Daily Post.

Taoho, 44, was found face down dead in the garage of his Gifford Pl flat in the early hours of August 12, 2017 after a night of smoking at least eight bongs of synthetic cannabis with his two sons.

But despite their father's death, one of his sons was found just a few hours later slumped over the driver's wheel of a car unconscious in the middle of a road after smoking synthetic cannabis.


Less than half an hour after being released from hospital, he and another son were found by police unconscious in a car, one covered in vomit, which indicated again they had smoked synthetic cannabis.

Coroner Mike Robb said in his finding the purpose of an inquiry into deaths such as Taoho's was to make recommendations or comments that, if drawn to public attention, could reduce the chances of other deaths in similar circumstances.

Coroner Robb's finding said Taoho had a heart condition but died from a probable complication of the use of synthetic cannabinoids.

Taoho lived at the Gifford Pl flat with his partner and children. He was not employed and had been subject to mental health care as a result of suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Coroner Robb said Taoho met regularly with his community mental health nurse to have medication injected and had in the past undergone periods of hospital care for his mental illness.

The finding said Taoho was a likely synthetic cannabis addict but had declined help for his addiction and in recent times told his carers he was no longer consuming the drug.

Coroner Robb said Taoho started smoking synthetic cannabis about 7pm on August 11.

The eight bongs were consumed into the night with the final one about 3am, after which he slipped off his chair and was lying face down on the garage floor.


Around the same time, one of his sons consumed synthetic drugs in a vehicle parked outside.

Details about shocking synthetic cannabis use involving a dead man have been revealed. Photo / File
Details about shocking synthetic cannabis use involving a dead man have been revealed. Photo / File

Coroner Robb said the son fell asleep and when he woke he went into the garage to find his father on the concrete. The son dragged Taoho towards the roller door. Taoho was cold to the touch so the son found a blanket and placed it over his father.

Taoho had been known to pass out following smoking synthetic cannabis, the finding said. The son told officials the drugs were obtained from their usual supplier but they would not provide details of who that was.

The son thought his father would wake but got his family's help when Taoho was still unresponsive an hour later. Emergency services were called and it was confirmed Taoho died sometime earlier.

Blood samples were taken and police provided items they believed contained synthetic cannabis to ESR for analysis. The drugs found on the items later matched what was found in Taoho's blood, the finding said.

About 1.30pm on the day Taoho died, police were alerted to a vehicle stopped in the middle of the road with a driver slumped at the wheel and unresponsive. The driver was one of Taoho's sons, the finding said.

The finding said members of the public removed the car key and pushed the vehicle to the side of the road.

When the driver woke, he became aggressive. He was restrained by the public until the police arrived at which time he suffered a seizure and was taken to Rotorua Hospital.

At hospital, the son confirmed to medical staff he had consumed a bong of synthetic cannabis about an hour before trying to drive his car. He said he was upset about his father's death but wouldn't reveal the source of his synthetic cannabis.

He remained at hospital until 4.30pm, the finding said.

About 5pm, police attended the family home at Gifford Pl to warn about the synthetic cannabis drugs as by then they were concerned Taoho's death was linked to the drugs.

Outside the home, they found two of Taoho's sons unconscious and unresponsive in a car parked at the rear of the property.

One of the sons had "vomited copiously" inside the vehicle and neither could be roused by shaking or loud voices, Coroner Robb said.

An ambulance was called and the sons were eventually woken and assessed.

Coroner Robb said the sons were uncooperative but indications were that their physical state had likely been brought on by consumption of synthetic drugs.

Coroner Robb made no additional comments or recommendations beyond those previously outlined in other coronial findings which had already identified the risks of consuming synthetic drugs and the need to seek urgent medical attention if a user collapsed.

The Taohos no longer live at the Gifford Pl flat. Family members approached by the Rotorua Daily Post declined to comment.

St John Ambulance confirmed to the Rotorua Daily Post it had attended just over 80 callouts relating to synthetic cannabis in the Lakes area, which included Rotorua, since the beginning of January.

Figures supplied to the Rotorua Daily Post from the Lakes District Health Board showed 73 patients presented to Taupō and Rotorua Hospitals (43 from Rotorua and 30 from Taupō) with symptoms considered to be linked to synthetic cannabis.

In Taupō, six of the 30 presentations to the emergency department were for the same patient, the health board spokeswoman said.

Between June 30 and November 21 this year three patients were taken in Rotorua and one in Taupō linked to synthetic cannabis.

In November Coroner Robb has also released the findings into two other deaths in the region directly linked to synthetic drugs.

He ruled Taupō man Isaiah Terry McLaughlin and Shannon James Thomas Coleman-Fallen from Rotorua both had died as a result of the drug.

There are about 50 deaths nationally which the coroner's office says were "provisionally" linked to synthetic cannabis.