LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A popular 13-year-old honor student found dead in her bedroom earlier this week was apparently killed after inhaling a can of computer cleaner to get high, school officials said on Thursday, in a rare “huffing” death that stunned her affluent Los Angeles neighborhood.
Aria Doherty, a popular student at Alfred B. Nobel Middle School in the upscale Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles, was pronounced dead in her home on Monday evening after she was found unresponsive by her older sister.
“Unfortunately, it was due to inhaling this vapor from this can, which was found close to her body,” Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Monica Carazo said. “I don’t know the brand name, but it’s the kind you use to clean your keyboard, your computers.”
Young people sometimes inhale such vapors in an effort to become intoxicated, a form of abuse known as “huffing.”
Doherty’s parents told local media their daughter, who likely died from cardiac arrest, had no history of drug or inhalant use. They said they wanted to use their daughter’s death as a warning to other parents.
“This was not that she had done it so many times that the chemicals had finally caused her brain damage or she’d gotten too much into her system. This is about her having a heart attack from just the very moment that she did the inhaling,” mother Carolyn Doherty told KCBS-TV.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever felt. I did not know anything could be this bad.”
Aria Doherty’s parents could not be reached for comment by Reuters on Thursday afternoon.
Local KTLA-TV reported that the girl’s sister found her in bed with the can of compressed air still attached her mouth, her nostrils taped shut.
An autopsy was completed on Thursday, but a formal finding of the cause of death was deferred pending toxicology and histopathology tests, Los Angeles County Coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter said.
Carazo said Doherty was a popular student at her school and that more than 100 of her classmates had visited a grief counselor over the incident.
“It looks like she was experimenting, it’s a really big shock to the students at her school,” Carazo said.
“She was an honors student, got straight A‘s, a very popular, nurturing student, she was the lead in Wizard of Oz, she was the Wicked Witch.”
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andre Grenon