Autistic Man Dies in Fire While Locked in Bathroom


Otto Rapihana of New Zealand, age 20, died in a fire after his caregiver locked him in a bathroom and left to get food. James Le Marquand, principal of the school Otto attended, said other students looked up to him as a leader:

"He was an icon here. He was a king. Whenever we had a really big welcoming for a special guest he would always be sitting in the middle, every time. He was that sort of kid.

"When I went around the classes with Otto's photo explaining what had happened, they all understood.

"Most of them can't speak but they picked up on the sombreness and just that sense of sadness. You could see it on their faces."

Rapihana came to the school's Glendene satellite class when he was five with severe autism.

His condition meant that he couldn't communicate with speech and he had challenging behavioural issues, Le Marquand said.

"But in many respects, his challenges helped define how the school worked to best meet the needs of the students.

"I don't think that he came to the school as a student, he came to us as a teacher."