A 17-year-old Glen Burnie High School student died yesterday morning in a Brooklyn apartment after inhaling butane fumes from a can, Baltimore City police said.
Nichelle Nicole Preston, of the 1800 block of Saunders Way in Harundale, was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest at Harbor Hospital Center shortly after 1 a.m., police and hospital officials said.
The police report said that Miss Preston was spending the night at a friend's home in the 1100 block of Cambria St. when she inhaled the fumes.
Sgt. Joe Beling, the shift supervisor at Southern District station, said the can was apparently the type used to refill lighters.
Jennifer Middlebrooks, 15, a sophomore at Glen Burnie High and close friend of Miss Preston, spoke in hushed tones yesterday afternoon about her death.
"She was lovely, high-spirited, always willing to help people," said Jennifer, who was not with Miss Preston when she died. "She was so popular."
The teen-ager said she had watched Miss Preston inhale butane several times. "She told me she had the best feeling when she inhaled the stuff," Jennifer said. "She loved it. She said she could quit any time.
"I told her that it was dangerous, but she said that she only lives for herself. She knows when to stop, but she didn't want to stop."
Jennifer, who said Miss Preston had been elected captain of the school cheerleading squad last week, said that she talked to several stunned friends. "I think this is a big lesson to everybody," she said, then broke down. "I can't talk about this anymore."
Theresa Smith, 18, who lives in the Brooklyn apartment, told officers that Miss Preston had been inhaling the fumes for about 20 minutes when she became ill and fell. Miss Smith called paramedics.
According to the report, residents of the building had complained throughout the evening of loud music coming from the second-floor apartment where Miss Smith lives.
After Miss Preston was pronounced dead at Harbor Hospital Center, Baltimore City police notified Anne Arundel County police, who told Miss Preston's parents.
Miss Preston's parents could not be reached for comment last night.
Jennifer's father, County Councilman Edward C. Middlebrooks, said he has asked police to investigate Miss Preston's death.
"I want to get a message to kids that this will kill you," he said. "Maybe we can save somebody else's life."