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Gardai probe suspected drugs link to festival death


Phil McConnell, 20, was a student at DIT and worked at a hotel in Malahide, Dublin

Phil McConnell, 20, was a student at DIT and worked at a hotel in Malahide, Dublin

Phil McConnell, 20, was a student at DIT and worked at a hotel in Malahide, Dublin

The young man who died at the Electric Picnic music festival this weekend was born with a congenital heart defect and was believed to be one of the youngest ever heart transplant recipients in the country.

Phil McConnell, 20, from Seabury in Malahide, Dublin, was not due to attend the event until he received a last-minute ticket offer after an online appeal to friends.

He told friends on Facebook on August 23 if he were to receive a ticket: "You'll have my undivided love forever." Last Thursday he entered a competition to win a ticket for the festival.

In a last facebook entry on Friday the tragic youngster posted he was "chasing the dragon".

A popular lad locally, the DIT student attended the concert with around 30 friends from north Dublin, including a granddaughter of former Taoiseach, the late Charles Haughey. His devastated friends returned home yesterday and were being comforted by parents and friends last night.

According to sources in Malahide, when Mr McConnell was 12 months old he had appeared as a guest on the Late Late Show with his parents who spoke about his need to have a heart transplant abroad.

In his final words on Facebook on Friday, shortly before he set off for the weekend, he wrote: "Good Morning. Four hours from being at Electric Picnic, sucking trees off chasing the dragon."

It is not clear what the youngster was referring to, but the term 'chasing the dragon' typically refers to the elusive pursuit of a high from drugs.

Yesterday Electric Picnic officials tweeted: "There may be some potentially dodgy 'Blue Ghosts/Casper' pills circulating onsite. We URGE you Picnickers to be VERY CAREFUL, stay safe."

"We have been consulting with the organisers of Electric Picnic and we are investigating the matter, and we have concerns about a certain batch of drugs," Superintendent John Scanlon told the Sunday Independent.

"We have consulted with the organisers on the tweet warning about these drugs and are working hard to make this site as safe as possible."

Although the dead man had a pre-existing cardiac condition, it is not yet known if this was a factor in his death.

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Gardai are investigating whether the young man had taken a quantity of drugs that may have exacerbated his cardiac condition.

Supt Scanlon said: "This is a terrible tragedy for the family of this young man, and we wish to offer our sympathies."

Mr McConnell died in the early hours of yesterday morning.

According to sources in Malahide, as the distressing events unfolded a teenage girl in the circle of close pals performed CPR while other friends sought out security to obtain medical treatment.

A spokesman for the festival organisers said: "At 1am this morning the medics attended a 20-year-old male who had collapsed on site.

The young DIT student, who also worked at The Grand Hotel in Malahide, was rushed to the Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise where he was pronounced dead at approximately 1.45am.

Gardai have said that a post-mortem is due to take place, but that foul play is not suspected.

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