'Forget about drugs. Live': Father of teenager who died after taking drug he thought was cocaine

By Eoin English

The father of a teenage boy who died after ingesting an illicit drug, believing it to be cocaine, has said that teenagers should forget about taking drugs and live instead.

A coroner has also issued a stark warning about the dangers of illicit drugs after an inquest today into the death of a teenager.

Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn said buying illicit drugs is like playing Russian roulette with your life after the inquest into the death of Michael Cornacchia, 16, heard how he died after ingesting the deadly U47700 drug, believing it to be cocaine.

Mr Comyn returned a verdict of misadventure.

Michael's father Roberto Cornacchia said: "Young people need to be really careful of what's out there, it's not a sexy thing.I was always against the head shops...how is this possible, how is this allowed?

Roberto Cornacchia outside the Coroner's Court today. Pic: Dan Linehan.

"A lot of the drugs that actually kill these days are legal."

He then gave a message to other teenagers about illicit drugs, saying: "Just forget about drugs, play sport. Live. That's what I did at their age, just play sport."

Michael was found unconscious by his mother at home at Deermount, in Deerpark on the southside of Cork city around 10am on January 16, 2017.

She raised the alarm and emergency services rushed to the house but Michael, a talented soccer player, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Gardaí found traces of a substance in the house and launched a massive investigation.

Analysis later confirmed the substance was the psychoactive drug U47700, known more commonly as U4. It is seven-and-a-half times stronger than morphine.

The garda probe resulted in a teenager being charged with the sale and supply of drugs.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to two charges, namely that on January 16, 2017 he, at a location in Cork city, had for sale or supply a psychoactive substance, namely U47700, to another person knowing or being reckless as to whether that substance was being acquired for human consumption.

He was also charged with possessing cocaine contrary to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

A friend of Michael's, who co-operated fully with the garda investigation, told the inquest today that on the night before Michael died, they had decided to get cocaine.

Michael Cornacchia.

They made contact with the defendant through Facebook messenger and met him at a park on the northside of the city around midnight to buy an eighth of an ounce, or 3.5g, of cocaine.

The defendant told gardaí he believed what he had sold was cocaine and was not aware of it being anything else.

Michael's friend said they both consumed several snorts of the drug as they walked back to Michael's home on the southside.

His friend said they had taken cocaine before but the reaction after ingesting this drug was completely different to previous reactions.

Michael could not be woken the next morning.

The late Michael Cornacchia

A post-mortem confirmed that he died from ingesting U4 and ecstasy, which combined to suppress his central nervous system and breathing.

Mr Comyn said this tragic case highlighted the dangers of buying illicit drugs, and the need for more drugs awareness programmes in secondary schools.

"There is no quality control in these drugs," he said.

"The people who make these drugs have no interest in their consumers.

"They are prepared to put anything into them to maximise their profits. That's all they are interested in."

The teenager who sold the killer drug was due to be sentenced last November but Judge Gerard O'Brien adjourned sentencing when it emerged that the teen had told his probation officer that he felt the sale of the drug didn't warrant a jail sentence.

When the matter came before the judge last January, Judge O'Brien imposed a 12-month detention and supervision order on him, backdated to September 5, 2017, when he was first remanded in detention in the case.

Six months of the order relate to detention, and six months to supervision post-release from detention.

Conditions of the supervision require the teenager to abstain from alcohol and illicit substances for six months post-release, attend for rehabilitation, adhere to all instructions of the Probation Service for six months and keep the peace and be of good behaviour for that period.

KEYWORDS: coroner, drugs

 

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