Tuesday 25 September 2018

'How is this allowed?' - Father of Cork teen who died after taking designer U4 drug

Coroner issues stark warning over dangers of drugs at inquest into death of boy (16)

Michael Cornacchia
Michael Cornacchia
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A CORONER issued a stark warning over the dangers posed by drugs as it emerged a talented Cork teenage soccer player died from a lethal synthetic party drug nicknamed U4.

Michael Cornacchia (16) died on January 16 2017 after ingesting U4 or U-47700, a drug which was also found in the system of pop star Prince.

The death of Mr Cornacchia - a skilled soccer player with Kilreen Celtic who was being monitored by a number of Irish and UK clubs - is the first recorded fatality from U4 in Ireland.

The youngster took the substance wrongly believing it was cocaine.

The teen's father, Roberto, urged young people to be aware of the lethal dangers posed by drugs.

"Young people need to be really careful with what is out there - this is not the 1960s, you know."

"I was always against them (drugs) and the head shops and all of that."

"I don't know how this is possible? How is this allowed? A lot of the drugs that have killed these days are actually legally sold - introduced, as far as I know, from China and places like that."

He pleaded with youngsters to realise that simply sampling a drug could cost them their lives.

Cork Coroner Philip Comyn warned that Ireland urgently needed to take steps to tackle the scourge of drugs which is hitting communities.

His warning came just over a year after he issued a similar plea about Ireland's urgent need to overhaul drug education in schools following another tragic drug-related death.

In that unrelated case, Alex Ryan (18) died in January 2016 after ingesting a synthetic party drug nicknamed N-Bomb.

Mr Comyn said something urgently needed to be done to highlight the dangers of drugs to youngsters - a call that was endorsed by the heartbroken Ryan family.

"The (education warning) systems at the moment are rather ad hoc," he said.

"My recommendation is that drugs awareness and education needs to be tackled in a much more structured way, particularly in schools," he said.

Mr Comyn said it was critical that youngsters were educated in schools about the dangers of drugs with the Gardai, HSE, support groups and those whose lives have been impacted by drugs being fully involved.

Mr Comyn said that youngsters need to realise that a drug may be something totally different to what they believe it to be.

He noted that Mr Cornacchia's death prompted a major HSE public health alert given the lethal nature of U4.

The coroner heard the inquest into the teen's death after a 17-year old was handed a detention and supervision order last January after he admitting possession of U4.

The 17 year old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, received the detention and supervision order after he told the Probation and Welfare Service (PWS) he did not believe his offence merited a prison sentence.

He was arrested in the wake of the garda investigation into Mr Cornacchia's death.

The 17 year old pleaded guilty to possession for sale or supply of U4.

Mr Cornacchia's mother, Joan, described the sentence as "an insult to his (her son's) memory."

She also backed calls for a "get tough" approach to drugs in Ireland - warning that the Government need to take immediate steps to block websites where youngsters can source such lethal drugs.

Mr Cornacchia died from the ingestion of a combination of U-47700 and Ecstasy.

He was found unresponsive in the sitting room at his home at Deerpark in Cork city on January 16 2017.

Desperate attempts to revive the teen failed.

The inquest returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster, conducted a full post mortem examination and toxicology test at Cork University Hospital (CUH).

The designer drug, known by its street name of U4, comes in a white powder form and is a synthetic opioid.

It is sometimes confused with cocaine - despite the fact it ranks as one of the most lethal designer drugs ever produced.

More than 60 people have died in ten states across the United States from suspected U4 use.

It is deadly because of its powerful impact on the respiratory system.

Within hours of the death of Mr Cornacchia, the Health Service

Executive (HSE) issued a major public warning about the dangers of U-47700/U4.

“We wish to highlight a white powder called U-47700 which may be in circulation. It may be in the form of a white powder and sold as cocaine," a spokesperson said.

“We are aware substances sold as cocaine may in fact contain other substances such as synthetic opioids. There is no way of telling what is in a powder or pill just by looking at it. It may look like the drug you want to purchase but it may well be something else.”

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