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Teen collapsed and died after inhaling nitrous oxide at house near Penn State campus, coroner says

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The death of a teen at an off-campus house at Penn State University has been ruled as accidental, according to the coroner.

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John Schoenig, 17, of Erie, was found in "full cardiac arrest" when emergency responders arrived at the house on West College Avenue on Oct. 19. He was later pronounced dead at the scene.

According to Erie News Now, the Center County Coroner's Office provided results of the victim's toxicology tests. Those said Schoenig died of "chemical asphyxia" due to inhaling nitrous oxide.


Officials said the gas, sometimes called "laughing gas," was delivered through what is known as a "whippet," a metal canister like the ones used for whipped cream.

Erie News Now reported that Schoenig and other friends were visiting Penn State and staying with friends in that off-campus home when the deadly incident happened.

Inhaling nitrous oxide for a high may cause a person using it to pass out from a lack of oxygen and can be fatal. In this case, the teen was deprived of oxygen, which stopped his heart.

Schoenig's autopsy found no alcohol in his system.

Penn State suspended the Alpha Delta Chapter of the Chi Phi fraternity, while the death is being investigated. Students from the fraternity live at the house where the accidental death occurred.