Friday 23 August 2019

'Outgoing and friendly' teenager dies three days after becoming ill at Indiependence Festival having taking substance

  • 'He was outgoing, friendly and had everything to live for'
  • Garda investigation is attempting to determine the precise source of the substance
Jack Downey (inset) died at Cork University hospital three days after becoming unwell at Indiependence Festival
Jack Downey (inset) died at Cork University hospital three days after becoming unwell at Indiependence Festival
Jack Downey (19) died after falling ill at Indiependence Festival
Jack Downey
Cork University Hospital

Ralph Riegel

A TEENAGER has lost his three day battle for life after falling ill at an Irish music festival having ingested suspected Ecstasy or MDMA.

The 19 year old - named locally as Jack Downey from Clonmel, Co Tipperary - died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) this afternoon.

The young man, a first year student at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and a keen hurler, died with his family by his CUH bedside.

He had failed to regain consciousness after being admitted to the hospital in a critical condition last Friday afternoon.

Jack Downey (19) died after falling ill at Indiependence Festival
Jack Downey (19) died after falling ill at Indiependence Festival

The young man had complained of feeling unwell at the Indiependence music festival in Mitchelstown, Co Cork shortly before 5pm last Friday.

It is unclear what precise substance was involved but detectives believe it was either Ecstasy or MDMA.

A Garda investigation is now attempting to determine the precise source of the substance and whether it was contaminated or became toxic after its combination with alcohol.

The teen was brought to medical staff at the festival site by concerned friends shortly before 5pm on Friday evening.

He was immediately treated on site before being rushed by ambulance to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated and he was admitted to the intensive care unit at CUH in a critical condition. He was placed on a life support machine.

Jack Downey
Jack Downey

Since then, his heartbroken family have maintained a three day vigil by his CUH bedside. The teen never regained consciousness.

He sat his Leaving Cert in 2018 and is deeply involved in sports in his native Tipperary, playing GAA throughout his teenage years with Clonmel Óg.

Clonmel Og Hurling and Football Club said they are "devastated" by the news of Jack's death.

A statement on the club's Facebook page said: "Our worst fears were realised this afternoon with the news that Jack Downey passed away in the company of his parents.

"We are devastated and will have more to say in time...

"At a time like this we need to be strong and there for each other."

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) Director of Student Affairs, Dr Dan Collins, said the entire CIT community was shocked by the news.

"I would like to extend, on behalf of the President and the entire CIT community, our sincere sympathies to Jack's parents, family, friends and all who were privileged to know him," he said.

"Our thoughts, our solidarity and our prayers are with them at this time."

The young man was a first year student at CIT.

Dr Collins said that the young man was a respected and popular student on campus - and was well known for his love of sport and, especially, the GAA and Tipperary hurling.

"He was outgoing, friendly and had everything to live for," he said.

An Indiependence festival spokesperson previously confirmed over the weekend they were aware of the matter.

"A 19 year old male reported to medical (staff) on Friday evening and was treated on site by a doctor before being transferred to CUH where his condition is being monitored," the spokesperson said.

"To clarify media reports of drug related issues at  Indie 2019, we wish to confirm that since the event opened at 10am on Friday (August 2), we have had one drug related transfer to CUH."

"Chief Medical Officer William Wade has confirmed that on Friday evening a 19 year old male was transferred to CUH having received treatment from the on-site doctor."

The Indiependence Festival said its thoughts are with the young man's family.

"Our immediate thoughts and those of all the festival-goers are with the family, relatives and friends of the deceased at their very sad loss," a spokesperson said.

"As with all sudden deaths, An Garda Siochána are investigating any pre-existing medical conditions and the circumstances surrounding the matter."

More than 15,000 music fans attended the Mitchelstown event which was headlined by Bastille, Lewis Capaldi, Biffy Clyro, Gavin James, The Frank & Walters as well as Catfish and the Bottlemen.

In a social media posting as the festival opened, the organisers issued a welfare message about "a bad batch of something in the campsite."

"We have reports of a bad batch of something in the campsite - do not consume any substance that you are unsure about. It has the potential to make you very sick. Please be careful and look after each other," it urged.

A similar welfare alert was issued by CUH on social media.

"We are aware that a text message was issued to attendees concerning reports of a bad batch of something on the campsite. Please circulate and to all attending stay safe. Single patient with severe illness.

"Hospital has been in contact with festival organisers and medical team on site. No new presentation - reassuring to all."

CUH doctor Mike O'Connor urged young people to avoid drugs at all costs.

"There is a medical tent (at Indie) - there is very good medical support at the festival," he said.

"The advice for anyone at events like these is not to be on your own - make sure you have a buddy with you at all times."

"But the main advice is to avoid taking drugs of any description. If it happens and people feel unwell or are suddenly dizzy, if they are getting drowsy or if they might have unusual sensations in their legs and arms, make sure you are brought to the medical tent immediately."

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News