A teenager known as a "jokester" was strangled by a dog lead he put around his neck while playing with friends at the start of summer vacation, just hours after finishing his freshman year in high school.
Tony Conley, 16, died near his home in Estill County in eastern Kentucky on Friday when he apparently jumped off an outdoor deck staircase and the dog lead tightened around his neck, county Coroner Tony Murphy said Monday.
"It was just so tight that it cut his air and his blood flow off to his head," the coroner said in a phone interview. "It's a terrible, terrible tragedy."
Friends tried but were unable to cut the metal cable, and Conley was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.
Conley had just finished his freshman year at Estill County High School hours before his death.
"He was a good kid," said his football coach, Mike Jones. "He was kind of goofy at times, just a jokester."
Conley was among a group of boys who had been playing basketball when the "freak accident" happened, Murphy said.
The other boys told investigators that Conley had picked up the dog lead and snapped it around his neck, the coroner said.
Conley was "just being a kid, goofing off" when he then decided to jump off the stairs leading up to the deck, he said.
"Looks like he maybe just started to flat foot and jump over the rail back down to the ground," Murphy said. "Somehow the cable got hung on the inside of the post on the top, which caused it to cinch down tight on his neck."
An autopsy showed that he died of strangulation, he said.
Murphy said that investigators found nothing to indicate the death was due to a "choking game," which involves strangling oneself or another person to achieve a high.
"Nothing has really led us that way," he said.
His football coach said Conley had worked hard in the weight room during the off-season in preparation for next season. Conley had put on about 30 pounds and was primed for varsity playing time in the fall as a sophomore, Jones said. Conley, a receiver, played on the freshman and junior varsity teams last fall.
"I don't know if I ever saw him in a bad mood," Jones said.