Hospital Technician Dies after Overdosing on Laughing Gas

May 21, 2007
Worker accessed locked office, used hospital gas for recreational purposes

A cardiopulmonary technician at Dallas Regional Medical Center in Mesquite died Tuesday after overdosing on nitrous oxide in a locked office at the center, according to police reports and the Dallas County medical examiner's office.

Police said it appeared Richard Hodgkins, 53, had used a tank of the anesthetic gas for recreational purposes but had passed out and inhaled too much.

The medical examiner's office ruled the death an accident, an asphyxiation caused when the nitrous oxide - commonly known as laughing gas - displaced oxygen in Mr. Hodgkins' body.

Roy Vinson, chief executive officer of the medical center, said Mr. Hodgkins was a dedicated health-care professional.

"Our prayers go out to his family," Mr. Vinson said.

The Hodgkins family couldn't be reached for comment.

Mesquite police Lt. Steve Callarman said a custodian at the hospital on North Galloway Drive, which until recently was Medical Center of Mesquite, found Mr. Hodgkins lying on the floor when she unlocked the office about 9 p.m. Tuesday.

An off-duty Mesquite police officer working security at the medical center heard her screams and called on-duty officers.

Lt. Callarman said Mr. Hodgkins had worked at the medical center for about seven years and had a good reputation there.

"He had been on vacation, and he was on his first day back," Lt. Callarman said.