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Friday 22 September 2017

Gardaí arrest teen in relation to sudden death of talented footballer (16)

Lethal powder drug U-4 on Ireland's streets for first time 'could be mistaken for cocaine'

Michael Cornacchia (16). Photo: Provision
Michael Cornacchia (16). Photo: Provision
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

A teenager has been arrested in relation to the death of 16-year-old Michael Cornacchia in Cork.

Michael Cornacchia was discovered in an unresponsive state in a bedroom at his home in the Deerpark estate, Friars Walk, on the southside of Cork city on Monday.

The shocking discovery was made by his mother shortly after 10am.

Gardaí confirmed to Independent.ie that a male juvenile has since been arrested and detained under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The teenager was held at Bridewell Garda Station and has since been released without charge.

A file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Warning

Meanwhile, a doctor has warned that the lethal white powder being sold on Ireland's streets for the first time could be mistaken for cocaine.

The warning comes as the HSE has issued a public health message about the synthetic drug known as U-47700, or by its street name U-4.

Dr Eamon Keenan, HSE National Clinical Leader for Addiction Services, is now warning the dangerous substance could be sold as, or mistaken for, cocaine.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Dr Keenan said this is the first time the substance has been recorded on the streets of Ireland.

The drug was first recorded in Tennessee in the United States in June 2015, and has been linked to at least 50 deaths in 10 US states.

"The substance has been discovered in Ireland for the first time," he said.

"[In this case] this substance was sold as something else and bought as something else, cocaine.

"You never know what you're buying when you go into the drug market. There is no security or control.

"This is the first time this drug has been seen and so this is a public health warning," he continued.

Describing the background of the drug, Dr Keenan said it was first patented as a "very strong painkiller" but had no legitimate use and so was never marketed.

"U-4 is now produced in bulk in China and shipped to the EU and the States," he said.

"It can be lethal if taken once. It has one and a half times the strength of morphine."

Dr Keenan said the drug can have "fairly quick" effects on the respiratory system. People can stop breathing and slip into a coma and slip into death within one and a half hours.

"The advice is not to take illegal drugs," he continued.

"But the reality is people do, so the advice from a public health point of view is to never mix the drug with alcohol, to take drugs with friends in a safe environment and if you're testing a new substance to take a small test dose."

Death

Mr Cornacchia was discovered unresponsive on Monday and medical personnel were called but despite their best efforts the teenager was pronounced dead at the scene.

A talented footballer, Michael played for his local club Kilreen Celtic.

Chairman of the club Donal Kelleher described him as a “quiet” and “popular” teenager.

“He was with us for a good few years and was playing with the U16s recently. He was a good player, he played centre-half for us,” Mr Kelleher told Independent.ie.

“He would have got on well with all the lads, he was a popular guy. He used to have long, dark hair down to his shoulders so everyone would have known him. He was a good young fella who was quiet. It’s very hard for everyone at the club to take.”

Gardaí have spoken to friends of the tragic teenager and believe he had been out socialising on Sunday night.

A toxicology report will determine the exact cause of Michael’s death.

However, it may take several weeks to complete.

“It can take at least five weeks for the results of a toxicology report to come back to establish what has caused the death, but gardaí have spoken with his friends and are satisfied with the timeline in the hours leading up to the discovery of Michael’s body,” a senior source said.

Residents in the Deerpark estate expressed their shock at the death, with one local woman describing Michael as a “very pleasant” teenager.

“I have two children of my own so my heart goes out to his parents and what they are going through. He was a very pleasant boy and seemed to be well liked by people in the area,” a neighbour said.

Schoolboys arrived at the housing estate yesterday to sympathise with his grieving relatives. Neighbour Jack O’Keeffe said the youngster had “everything going for him”.

“He was a handsome lad. A beautiful lad. We are all devastated... He had everything in life going for him,” he said.

Former Cork City Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary expressed his sympathies with Michael’s family.

“It is a very tragic situation for the family and my deepest condolences go out to them at this time,” Mr O’Leary said.

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