Girl’s heartbreaking tribute to ‘amazing dad’ who died after taking laughing gas

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An eight-year-old girl has paid tribute to her ‘amazing and loving’ dad who died after taking laughing gas with a friend.

Matthew Brannelly, from Chorley, Lancashire, had inhaled around 35 balloons of nitrous oxide from eight canisters in the space of around 50 minutes while sitting in his work van.

An inquest into his death at Preston Coroner Court heard on Tuesday that the 29-year-old groundworker was with Steve Houghton where they inhaled the balloons in the car park at Duxbury Park Golf Club in Chorley, on October 20 last year.

Mr Houghton told the inquest his pal had started taking the gas around 18 months ago.

He said: “He’d been taking it for about a year and-a-half.

“I think he was sniffing lighter gas too but with lighter gas he would hide it because he didn’t want us to know as we would have had a go at him.”

The inquest heard it is not a criminal offence to inhale nitrous oxide but as a psychoactive drug it is illegal to give away or sell.

“You can only buy one nitrous oxide cylinder at a time,” Mr Houghton said.

“So I think he must have been stock-piling them.”

While the pair were sat in the van Mr Brannelly fell asleep and when Mr Houghton returned from smoking a cigarette he found his friend was ‘grey and unresponsive’ with ‘blue lips’, LancsLive reports.

Passers-by and members of the golf club committee rushed over to help, with someone bringing the club’s defibrillator, but Mr Brannelly was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Houghton later said it was a day he would remember ‘for the rest of my life’ and during the two weeks before he died Mr Brannelly ‘wasn’t himself’.

“He would just shrug everything away,” Mr Houghton added.

“He was doing a lot of jobs very quickly, not to his usual standard, he was rushing them just to get the money.”

Area Coroner Richard Taylor asked Mr Houghton what it feels like when you inhale nitrous oxide.

“It’s just a bit of a buzz, it only lasts five minutes then it wears off,” he replied.

Mr Brannelly’s partner, Steph Norris, said in a statement that she ‘hadn’t believed’ he had been using drugs in the few months prior to his death but after the inquest she told LancsLive she had later found ‘boxes full of cylinders’.

Detective Inspector Roger Ashcroft who investigated the death said he had found no suspicious circumstances or evidence of third party involvement.

“There was a blue plastic bag full of cylinders and cream chargers and there was some balloons too,” DI Ashcroft said.

“A number of people there felt he may have discarded something in the nearby undergrowth so we called for a police dog to search the scene but nothing was found.”

The inquest heard the medical cause of death was recorded as nitrous oxide inhalation.

At one point during the hearing Mr Brannelly’s dad, Mark, spoke angrily to Mr Houghton who he accused of being ‘off his head’ on the day his son died.

However, while Mr Houghton admitted having inhaled one or two balloons, DI Ashcroft said although he had ‘clearly taken something he could still be spoken to’.

In a statement Mr Brannelly’s dad said: “I knew he had suffered with a drug problem for many years but I wasn’t sure what drugs he took or if he was getting any help.”

The coroner concluded that Mr Brannelly’s death was caused by misadventure which he explained to the family is when a death is the ‘unintended consequences of an intended action’.

“I would guess that Matthew would have no idea as to the potential danger of inhaling nitrous oxide and I don’t believe he would have done anything deliberately to end his life,” he added.

“My belief is that this was a recreation he partook in on occasions and on this occasion sadly and tragically his body could not copy with it and his brain was starved of oxygen.”

After the inquest Mr Brannelly’s partner, Steph Norris, said their daughter Leah had been the ‘apple of her dad’s eye’.

She also paid tribute, saying that she was doing so on behalf of her daughter.

“He was an amazing daddy and a very loving dad,” Miss Norris added.

“We all miss him terribly and Leah is always asking about him.”