Coroner Simon Cooper found Heather McKenzie, who was on board the Silver Whisper last year, was a
Coroner Simon Cooper found Heather McKenzie, who was on board the Silver Whisper last year, was a "regular and heavy consumer of alcohol."

Booze and pills behind cruise ship tourist's death: coroner

A CANADIAN tourist who died on board a cruise ship docked in Burnie did so due to a drug interaction with toxic levels of alcohol, a coroner has found.

Coroner Simon Cooper found Heather McKenzie, who was on board the Silver Whisper which visited Burnie in February last year, was a "regular and heavy consumer of alcohol."

"Her medical records indicate that in 2009 she was treated for falling down the stairs due to excessive alcohol consumption and there are several other entries in her medical records," Mr Cooper said.

At the time of her death, the 68-year-old tourist was on a holiday cruise with her husband.

The ship docked in Burnie on February 14 and the couple went to bed at about 10.30pm.

"It is evident that the couple had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol prior to retiring for the evening," Mr Cooper said.

Just before 2am, Mr McKenzie woke up and found his wife lying unconscious next to the bed.

He rang reception asking for medical assistance and the ship's doctor and nurse attended and started CPR. Four doses of adrenaline were administered, but to no avail.

Ambulance Tasmania was contacted and paramedics boarded the ship.

They also administered a dose of adrenaline but were unable to revive the woman.

Police attended but could not get an affidavit from Mr McKenzie due to his level of intoxication and his distress, the coroner's report said.

Police noted the cabin was tidy with no apparent signs of a struggle or any disturbance.

A large clip seal bag with a number of tablets in it was found along with two wine glasses which smelt strongly of whiskey.

After formal identification, Mrs McKenzie's body was taken by mortuary ambulance to the Launceston General Hospital.

An autopsy found no signs of injury or violence and no obvious pathological cause of death.

Blood samples showed that at the time of her death Mrs McKenzie's blood contained 0.337 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, caffeine and 0.05 mg/L of amlodipine - a level greater than therapeutic.

"Blood alcohol concentrations in excess of 0.4 grams per 100 millilitres are potentially fatal and may cause loss of consciousness, respiratory failure and without supportive care, death," Mr Cooper said.

"Several studies have shown that the associated use of amlodipine and alcohol may cause an

increase of the drug and cause tachycardia, hypotension, and/or postural hypotension."