Tributes to 'helium death' teenager from Newtownabbey

Jordan McDowell Jordan McDowell, who was found dead at her home on Sunday

Tributes have been paid to a Newtownabbey schoolgirl who died in what is believed to have been a tragic accident involving inhaling gas from a helium balloon.

Jordan McDowell, 13, a Monkstown Community School pupil, was found dead on Sunday.

A funeral service was held at the Glenvarna Christian Centre in Newtownabbey on Friday.

Acting principal of the school, Raymond Leeman, paid tribute to Jordan.

"A number of the pupils have been collecting their thoughts and memories of Jordan and a number of them are very touching in what they say," he said.

"It is very sad that she had just turned 13. 'Jordan was always smiling and very nice to everyone' is what one child had written down.

Dr Alan McKinney, A&E consultant Altnagelvin Hospital

Helium is an inert gas, so the problem would be anoxia - lack of oxygen.

The problem of inhaling only helium, nitrogen or any mixture of gases that doesn't contain sufficient amounts of oxygen would be the brain starves of oxygen.

You then stop breathing and have a cardiac arrest because of the lack of oxygen around your vital organs.

It's quite an unusual circumstance.

People will often inhale the contents of a balloon to make their voice sound squeaky, but I think there's an inherent risk of inhaling too much of this and not getting oxygen to your bloodstream.

So I think the answer is children shouldn't be doing that.

"Our hearts as a school go out very much to the whole family circle, particularly today which is the day of the funeral."

It is understood the school has collected about 200 pieces of writing and art in tribute to Jordan who was from the Monkstown area.

Mr Leeman said pupils and staff had called with the McDowell family to offer their condolences.

He said Jordan's grandmother is a caretaker at the school and her mother was a former pupil.


"The response within the school has been extremely dignified," he added.

"We have provided pupils with time and space to collect their thoughts and to write down their thoughts.

"Some have written letters to Jordan, some have written notes to her grandmother who is a caretaker at the school.

"All of the children have been able to do that and these have all been collected together and they will go to the family.

"Hopefully they will be of some help and consolation to them in the days ahead."

Mr Leeman said counselling services had been available for both staff and pupils this week.

Jordan's death is the second tragedy to hit the school this year following the death of former pupil Neil McFerran, 18, following a suspected carbon monoxide leak at a flat in Castlerock, County Londonderry, in August.

Neil was at Monkstown for five years, before transferring to Glengormley High School for his A-levels. He died along with his friend Aaron Davidson, also 18, in the incident.

"This week we were planning to run a concert, part of which would have been a tribute to Neil," Mr Leeman said.

"With the sad circumstances surrounding Jordan, we had to cancel that this week."

The acting principal said Jordan's death was also an "immense loss".

"Even within school this morning some of her teachers have been saying to me 'she should have been there', and they are finding that very difficult," he added.

"If it is difficult for staff, I just cannot begin to comprehend how difficult it must be for her family."

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