Micah David, 17

Micah David, 17 (Family Photo, Courtesy Tony David)

RIVERSIDE -- A Riverside teenager is dead after he inhaled helium, a gas that is often mistakenly thought to be harmless. Now, the boy's father wants other teens and parents to be aware of the dangers of inhaling the gas.

17 year old Micah David was found dead in his room on December 14, according to his family. Micah's father, Tony David, says his son bought the helium tank at Walmart, but he didn't know about the purchase until after he made the tragic discovery. "It was a small tank, the kind you would use to blow up balloons for a party," David says.

Micah was found with a bag over his head, according to Riverside Police Sgt. Mark Rossi. He had attached the bag to the helium tank to keep the gas from escaping, Rossi said.

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Rossi said that teens don't really understand how dangerous inhaling gases can be. Helium is often inhaled from a balloon to distort a person's voice, making it sounds like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. But, teens also inhale it to get high along with other aerosols. Experts say too much of the gas can cause the user to pass out and suffocate.

The Riverside County coroner's office is investigating the death. Toxicology tests could take 6 to 8 weeks to complete and may not show any signs of helium, according to officials. The tests, however, would show signs of oxygen starvation which is the actual cause of death.

This is the second helium death in Riverside County in the past year and a half. The previous victim was a woman, according to Rossi.

Micah would have turned 18 on January 17th and was earning straight A's at King High School. His friends have set up a facebook page in loving memory of Micah.