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Inquest hears teenager died after taking 'bombs' of ecstasy at music festival

A verdict of misadventure was recorded by the inquest.

A TEENAGER WHO wasn’t a regular drug user died after taking ‘bombs’ of ecstasy at the Indiependence music festival an inquest has heard. 

Coroner Philip Comyn presided over the inquest of Jack Downey, 19, of Ard Chaoin in Clonmel, Co Tipperary who passed away on 5 August, 2019 at Cork University Hospital (CUH) having been rushed there by ambulance three days earlier.

Mr Comyn issued a warning to young people to not take “illicit drugs”.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster carried out a post-mortem on the teenager. She said Jack died of organ failure with hypothermia following the ingestion of ecstasy and morphine. A contributory factor was aspiration pneumonia.

Dr Bolster emphasised that Jack Downey would have lapsed in to a coma and that no suffering would have taken place. She warned that people never know how they are going to react to taking to ecstasy or any illicit street drug. 

A number of boys who were at the campsite when Jack became ill gave statements to gardaí.

One friend said that they had collected the ecstasy in Tipperary before they travelled to Cork.

He said the group were not used to taking to ecstasy and had bought over 7 grams for €200 which they divided amongst a group of six. The friend reported that Jack started taking the ecstasy early in the afternoon on the first day of the concert on 2 August.

He noted that Jack started “shaking and sweating.” Jack took another few bombs of ecstasy and “panic began to set in” among his friends.

“He was shaking a lot. The shakes were vicious. We were just around him in a shock not knowing what to do,” the witness said. 

The friends placed Jack in a tent. When his condition further dis-improved Jack was seen by paramedics and taken by ambulance to hospital.

Det Sgt James O’Shea thanked the friends of the deceased for their assistance with the criminal investigation.

CCTV was harvested from the campsite and numerous statements were taken. A file was sent to the DPP. However, no prosecution arose.

Det Sgt O’Shea said that it was a “desperate tragedy.” A verdict of misadventure was recorded in the case. Both gardai and the Coroner extended their sympathy to the family of the deceased.

Jack is survived by his parents Elaine and Johnny. 

Such was his popularity that his removal and funeral mass in Clonmel involved the attendance of thousands of people. He lay in repose at Clonmel Óg Hurling & Football Club.

Chief celebrant at the mass, Fr Michael Hegarty, said that such was the outpouring of support for the bereaved parents that the removal to the church which was supposed to occur at 8pm instead took place two hours later.

Johnny Downey, father of the late Jack, said he wasn’t one for “fancy words.” He recalled the birth of his only child telling mourners that Jack was 11lbs when he was born and that he was  ”a big man even then.”

Mr Downey, who is a garda in Clonmel, urged Jack’s friends and loved ones to watch out for each other.

“There is no blame. He will be missed – his friends are now to look after each other and not forget.

“I used to sit back and just admire him – he was a man with a presence. A cheeky little smile.”

“He was a fabulous boy – and I am proud to call him my son,” he said.

Elaine Downey spoke of her fond memories of her son who was a goalie with Clonmel Óg.  She recalled the full of life teenager who would take over the kitchen table repairing his hurleys.  Mourners were asked to donate to the ICU at CUH in lieu of flowers. 

Jack had completed first year in Cork Institute of Technology and was due back to college the following month. Counselling services were made available to impacted students.

Olivia Kelleher