Monday 10 December 2018

Warning after teen soccer star killed by party drug 'U4'

Michael Cornacchia
Michael Cornacchia

Ralph Riegel

A coroner issued a stark warning over the dangers posed by drugs as it emerged a talented 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 late pop star Prince.

The death of Mr Cornacchia, a talented soccer player with Kilreen Celtic in Cork who was being monitored by a number of Irish and British clubs, was the first recorded fatality from U4 in Ireland.

The youngster took the substance mistakenly believing it was cocaine.

The teen's father, Roberto, urged young people to stay away from drugs.

The heartbroken dad said of his son: "He was going to be a great player - a better man than I am, if he got a chance. He was going to be a great person, a great player - he had a great life in front of him.

"Young people need to be really careful with what is out there - this is not the 1960s, you know. Just forget about drugs - just play sport and live. That's what I did at their age."

Cork Coroner Philip Comyn warned that Ireland urgently needed to take steps to tackle the drugs scourge.

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.

"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 youngsters were educated in schools about drug risks - and realised that taking drugs was engaging in "Russian roulette" with their lives.

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

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

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

Mr Cornacchia died from the ingestion of a combination of U-4 and ecstasy.

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

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 teen died from a U4 concentration higher than in 11 other fatal cases reported internationally.

The drug comes in a white powder form and can be up to eight times more powerful than morphine.

Irish Independent

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