Saturday 24 February 2018

Teenager charged with possession of deadly designer drug that killed talented footballer (16)

Cork District Court Inset: Michael Cornacchia Photo: Provision
Cork District Court Inset: Michael Cornacchia Photo: Provision
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A teenager has been charged with possession of a deadly designer drug for sale or supply following a garda investigation into the tragic death of a talented young footballer earlier this year.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared before Cork District Court.

Michael Cornacchia who died in Cork Photo: Provision
Michael Cornacchia who died in Cork Photo: Provision

Last July, the inquest into the death of Cork teen, Michael Cornacchia (16), was adjourned after his cause of death was outlined as due to a combination of the designer drug U-47700 and Ecstasy.

Mr Cornacchia was a talented underage football player in Cork and had been scouted by a number of Irish and UK teams.

A number of people were arrested and questioned by gardai as part of a major investigation into the death, the first in Ireland from the lethal party drug U4.

The 17-year-old teen, with a Cork address, was charged before Cork District Court with having possession of a designer party drug named U4 for sale or supply on January 16 last.

The youngster now faces trial before Cork Circuit Criminal Court after Inspector Finbarr O'Sullivan confirmed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has indicated that the matter be dealt with on indictment.

Detective Garda Daragh Murray gave evidence of arrest, caution and charge to the court.

He said the teen made no reply when the two charges were put to him.

Judge Olann Kelleher was told the teen will be vehemently contesting the charges.

Gardai objected to bail and the teen was remanded in custody to the Oberstown Centre to appear again before Cork District Court on September 8 next.

The youth gave evidence in support of his own bail application.

He had vowed to comply with all bail conditions imposed.

Mr Cornacchia was pronounced dead after being found unresponsive at his home in Deerpark, Cork, on January 16 last.

The designer drug U4 can be confused with cocaine and is notorious for its lethal properties.

At the coroner's inquest two months ago, Detective Inspector Declan O'Sullivan applied for an adjournment as the garda investigation was still ongoing.

Two people were previously arrested by gardaí in connection with the probe and a file was submitted to the DPP.

Cork Coroner Philip Comyn was told the Deerpark teen died after he was discovered unconscious in his home by his shocked mother.

The youngster was pronounced dead on January 16 last.

A skilled footballer with Kilreen Celtic, the progress of the youngster was being monitored by a number of bigger clubs.

Mr Comyn was told by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster the youngster died from the ingestion of a combination of U-47700 and Ecstasy.

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 known.

More than 50 people have died in ten states in the United States from suspected U4 use - and it was one of the cocktail of drugs found in the system of pop star Prince (57).

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

The death of Mr Cornacchia is understood to be the first recorded death in Ireland due to U4.

Within hours of the death of Mr Cornacchia last January, the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a 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.”

Last February, Mr Comyn issued a stark warning about Ireland's urgent need to overhaul drug education in schools.

He revealed one-in-three inquests held this year involved deaths connected to drugs or alcohol.

At that inquest, the sister of a teenager who died from a lethal synthetic party drug nicknamed N Bomb in a separate and unrelated case pleaded with youngsters to say 'No' to drugs.

Nicole Ryan's brother, Alex (18), died after taking the deadly psychedelic drug, NBomb, which had been sourced by another party from a supplier in Thailand via the DarkWeb.

"Young people need to realise that they are playing Russian roulette with their lives when they take drugs," she said.

"Alex could have been anyone's brother, son or partner - it is not a question of 'if' someone else will die from drugs in Ireland, it is only a question of when."

Nicole has now devoted herself to speaking in schools to warn youngsters about the dangers of drugs.

Mr Ryan died after ingesting the lethal synthetic party drug on January 18 2016.

A number of people had to be hospitalised after the party at which he lost his life.

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