Neknominate: deaths of two Brits blamed on drinking craze

Feb 10, 2014

Police investigating whether deaths in London and Cardiff are linked to new social media game

POLICE are investigating whether the deaths of two British men over the weekend are linked to Neknominate, the controversial social media drinking game. The two victims, from Cardiff and London, died just a week after two other men died in Ireland after playing the same game.

What is Neknominate?

The game encourages participants to film themselves "necking" one or several alcoholic drinks, before nominating a friend to do the same. Those nominated are supposed to complete their challenge within 24 hours. One Facebook page, which has since been taken down, said: "Neck your drink. Nominate another. Don't break the chain, don't be a d***. The social drinking game for social media! #neknominate. Drink Responsibly." Some nominees have taken the game a step further, combining multiple spirits, drinking large volumes of alcohol and drinking in bizarre locations.

Where did Neknominate originate?

The game is believed to have started in Perth, Australia, and has gone global with the help of social media.

What kind of videos are being posted?

Many simply show people downing a drink or two, while others show nominees taking their challenge to the extreme. One popular video shows a bare-chested man emptying a bottle of beer down the toilet before two friends lower him head-first into the bowl to drink it. Footage has also emerged of participants stripping to their underwear to drink in supermarket aisles and downing concoctions containing de-icer, kitchen cleaner, battery fluid and urine. One man in Northern Ireland was recorded cutting the head off a woodcock and eating its insides with a spoon before drinking a pint of gin containing a goldfish and jumping into the sea.

Who has died after playing Neknominate?

Police are investigating whether the deaths of four men in the last two weeks are related to the game. Last weekend, Ross Cummins, a 22-year-old DJ, was found unconscious in a house in Dublin city centre and later died in hospital. The body of a 19-year-old, Jonny Byrne (pictured above), was recovered from the River Barrow in Co Carlow. It is believed that he jumped into the river after playing the game. His brother Patrick, who tried to save him, posted a statement on his Facebook page asking people to stop playing Neknominate. This weekend, a 20-year-old hostel receptionist, Isaac Richardson, collapsed and died minutes after drinking a litre and a half of a mixture including vodka, whisky, white wine and lager. Before his death, he had boasted to a friend that he was going to "outdo" others who had taken part in the game. A 29-year-old man, named locally as Stephen Brooks, also collapsed and died in Cardiff after playing the game.

Why is it so dangerous?

Critics say it is the combination of peer pressure and online one-upmanship that leads to increasingly risky and outlandish challenges. A spokesman for Alcohol Action Ireland has said that the consequences of drinking large volumes of alcohol in a short period of time can have "very real" consequences for those taking part. He added: "We would call on people to look after their health and well-being by not participating in this 'game' and to protect their friends from the serious risks associated with it by not nominating them to take part." Frances Fitzgerald, Ireland's minister for children and youth affairs, has condemned the craze, saying: "This is not a game. It is a highly dangerous – potentially lethal – phenomenon, where an inappropriate peer pressure element adds to the risks."

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