A teenaged Midland army recruit died after inhaling lighter fluid in his barracks, an inquest heard yesterday.
While high on butane gas, Gunner Michael Riley, aged 17, from Pelsall, Walsall, fell off a chair he was dancing on and hit his head on the floor of a fellow soldier's room.
He then lapsed into unconsciousness and died shortly after the incident on November 10, 2003 at Stirling Barracks at the Royal Artillery Training College, Larkhill, Wiltshire.
He had been finishing his training at the college on Salisbury Plain, having done the first part of it in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
At Salisbury Coroner's Court yesterday, Wiltshire Coroner David Masters recorded a verdict of misadventure.
Confirming the cause of death as solvent abuse, he described Michael as "a promising, very popular young man who was not able to fulfil his army career".
When he fell, fellow recruits assumed Michael, of the 14th Irish Battery, nicknamed Bubbles due to his "bubbly" personality, was fooling around.
They then realised his eyes were rolling, the inquest heard.
Attempts to revive the teenager failed and he was certified dead on arrival at Salisbury District Hospital.
Gunner Michael Devine, in whose room the incident occurred, told police he had seen Michael with a lighter fluid canister in his mouth.
"He was jumping around while he had the canister in his mouth," said the coroner, reading from Gunner Devine's statement.
Gunner Devine said he had seen Michael do this before.
Describing him fall and hit his head while dancing on a chair to music, Gunner Devine said he did not think anything of it initially "because he (Michael) was always jumping around".
Gunner Mark Watson said he had witnessed Michael, who signed up for the army at 16, and fellow recruit Richard Callaghan snorting lighter fluid earlier in the evening, describing a "hissing" noise as it was sniffed.
"I could see they were high or drunk and they were trying to hide a can with a nib. I left because I did not want to become further involved," he said.
Gunner Callaghan, now absent without leave from the army, told police at the time how he, Michael and a few others had been for a drink earlier in the evening.
They returned to Gunner Devine's room after one of their number had bought a canister of lighter fluid, which was passed to Michael, the hearing was told.
The gathering of recruits was then joined by Michael, the yellow canister sticking out of his tracksuit pocket.
Major Glen Burn, who headed an internal inquiry into the death and represented the army at the inquest, made no comment afterwards.
Michael's parents, 42-yearold businessman Keith and his wife Deborah, also attended and made no comment.