Ten deaths in two years linked to lethal ecstasy, gardai fear
GARDAI now fear that at least 10 young people have died after taking lethal ecstasy tablets over the past two years.
The news emerged last night as the family of one victim told how their son became ill while socialising with his college-going friends in Waterford.
A definite link has been confirmed between five fatalities and ecstasy tablets, known as Green Apples or Green Rolex because of their logos.
At least five other deaths are suspected of being caused by taking the green tablets, which contain PMMA, a substance that causes severe agitation, extremely rapid heart rate and very high temperatures.
The latest suspected PMMA-related death took place at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore, Co Offaly, on Wednesday. Aisling Buckley (26), of Ballyboy, Kilcormac, Co Offaly, was taken to the A&E unit at the hospital by friends, who told medical staff she had accidentally taken an overdose of tablets. She was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
The results of toxicology tests have not yet been released but it is suspected that Ms Buckley, who had a flat in Tullamore, was a victim of PMMA.
A confirmed PMMA victim, Shane Cotton (16), of Priory Court, New Ross, Co Wexford, died at Waterford Regional Hospital on Sunday after allegedly taking six of the green tablets.
Experts have warned that PMMA is slow to take effect, often resulting in users consuming higher volumes of pills.
His grand-aunt, Helen Purcell, described Shane as a "lovely" young boy and said his death was a tragic loss and devastating at such a young age.
The young kickboxer was out with friends when he took ill on Sunday morning and his family were alerted after he was rushed to the hospital. His mother, Tricia, was by his bedside when he died.
"Its an awful waste of a young life", Mrs Purcell added. "He was only a child, what can you say at times like this".
The death of Shane is also mourned by his father, Terry.
Other confirmed victims, whose deaths have been linked to PMMA, include a young man in his 20s in Youghal, Co Cork, in March, a man in his early 20s in Roundwood, Co Wicklow, last year and two friends, Liam Coffey and Michael Coleman, at their rented house in Kinsale, Co Cork, in September 2012. Evidence at their inquest last month showed they had taken levels of MDMA and PMMA within the fatal range.
This led West Cork coroner Frank O'Connell to issue a warning of the dangers of ecstasy, saying the two friends were innocents who did not know the risk they were taking.
Another suspected PMMA-linked death involved a young man in Tullamore last December as well as two other deaths in the Midlands and one in Dublin between January and April of this year.
Prof Joe Barry, head of the drugs services at the HSE, said the dangers of PMMA warranted a nationwide alert.
"There were four deaths over the course of a month with similar case histories and possible links with this tablet", he said.
He pointed out that around one drug death a day was being recorded but there was evidence that some of these tablets had appeared here and in the UK previously. He said the alert was timely as students were finishing exams and the summer was coming with a lot of festivals and other activities.
Prof Barry warned the tablets were often mass produced and removed from street sale when there was an alert but returned after the publicity ceased.
Gardai also renewed their warning about the dangers of ecstasy tablets containing PMMA. Apart from the green pills, the substance had also been detected in white pills with a Mitsubishi logo.