Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Sun, February 19 2012 at 6:52 PM, Updated: Sun, February 19 2012 at 11:31 PM
Inhaling helium, it's something that seems innocent to many. But on Saturday night, 14-year-old Ashley Long of Eagle Point, died after she allegedly drank alcohol and inhaled helium. It happened in a home near the 3100 block of Alameda Street in East Medford.
"We believe she ingested this helium from a tank and then seconds later collapsed and she never regained consciousness after that," said Lieutenant Mike Budreau of the Medford Police. "It's very unusual for somebody to die in this manner," he continued.
Police tell NBC 5 News that the young girl was pronounced dead at Rogue Valley Medical Center after drinking alcohol and inhaling helium at the east Medford home of 27-year-old Katherine McAloon.
Police say McAloon gave about 7 minors alcohol at her home Saturday night. The teens ranged between 13-16 years of age.
Marijuana was also allegedly given to the teens inside her residence.
But police believe it was the helium that Long breathed-in that ultimately claimed her life.
"People think it's not that dangerous but it is dangerous, and obviously we believe in this particular case, contributed significantly to a 14-year-old losing her life for nothing," said Lt. Budreau.
While uncommon, in the past, others have died from inhaling helium.
A segment on the NBC TV show The Doctors discussed the health risks of inhaling helium.
"The major concern is you're breathing in helium, not oxygen very quickly. Without that oxygen in your lungs, to go into your bloodstream [...] your brain needs oxygen not helium. And you can die from that alone," explained Dr. Travis Stork, from The Doctors.
As for 27-year-old Katherine McAloon, she's in the Jackson County Jail, charged with seven counts of Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor and two counts of Delivering Marijuana to a Minor. Bail for McAloon is set at $38,000.
Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.
Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.
Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.
Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.