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Erie Teen’s Death Ruled Accidental, DA Files No Charges

The State College Police Department and the Centre County Coroner’s Office have ruled the death of 17-year-old Erie native John “Jack” Schoenig an accident and will not file any charges in the matter, according to a release from the office of District Attorney Bernie Cantorna.

An autopsy ruled that Schoenig, who was found unresponsive and not breathing at 522 West College Avenue on October 19, died of chemical asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide. A toxicology report confirmed that nitrous oxide was present in Schoenig’s blood and found no measurable amounts of alcohol.

Schoenig had inhaled nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, by the use of whippits, which are cartridges of the gas used in whipped cream dispensers. He reportedly began to hyperventilate, became unresponsive, and stopped breathing. He had entered full cardiac arrest by the time first responders arrived.

The investigation cleared the residents of the house, who reportedly attempted to administer first aid, called 911, and cooperated with police and emergency personnel.

“Pennsylvania’s ‘Drug Overdose Response Immunity’ statute provides immunity from prosecution to those who render aid and stay with a person until police and EMS arrive,” the release said. “Given these statutes and the fact that the residents stayed with Mr. Schoenig until police and EMS arrived, no charges will be filed in this matter.”

Penn State initially placed Chi Phi fraternity under interim suspension following Schoenig’s death because the residence where Schoenig died was reportedly occupied by fraternity members. The residence is not the fraternity’s official house. Penn State lifted that suspension while still banning socials two weeks ago.

“Tragically, the death of Mr. Schoenig illustrates the life threatening ramifications that inhaling nitrous oxide can have,” Cantorna said in a release. “It is important that our young people and our community understand the risk that this drug poses.”

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About the Author

Jim Davidson

Jim is a junior English and history major and the features editor for Onward State. He, like most of the Penn State undergraduate population, is from 'just outside Philadelphia,' and grew up in Spring City, Pennsylvania. He covers a variety of Penn State topics, but spends nine months of every year waiting for the start of soccer season. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @messijim.

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