'It can affect anyone': Jack Downey's parents hope teen's death will raise awareness about drugs

'It can affect anyone': Jack Downey's parents hope teen's death will raise awareness about drugs

The parents of teenager Jack Downey who died after taking drugs at the Indiependence festival earlier this month have warned that no household is immune to such a tragedy.

The 19-year-old from Clonmel, Co Tipperary became unwell while at the festival on August 4 in Mitchelstown, Co Cork.

He was taken to Cork University Hospital (CUH) after presenting himself to the medical tent with complaints of feeling unwell, but sadly died on the August Bank Holiday Monday three days later.

Organisers of the festival had issued an alert on the Friday that a “bad batch of something” was present on the campsite.

Jack's parents Johnny and Elaine hope that his death will raise awareness among young people and parents that the prevalence of drug-taking means that tragedy can strike any family.

"There's no such thing as a bad batch, it's all bad," Johnny told Brendan O'Connor on RTE 1's Marian Finucane show this morning.

As a garda based in Clonmel he says he has seen cases come before the courts on many occasions and that these people are lucky insofar as they were not harmed by taking the substances.

"I would never have suspected it was going to be our Jack....but it can affect everyone," he said.

We put ourself in a bubble thinking it's not going to happen to us but unfortunately it has. We need to cop on and take a look around. It's so prevalent that we're oblivious and turned a blind eye.

"It's so easy for young people to fall into this trap and say I'll have the buzz and I'll be grand. These are young, smart people who think they're invincible."

Jack's mother Elaine wants people to be aware of how the lives of young people differ from her generation's time as teenagers and that drugs are now a reality in society.

"I never thought it would impact me, that my son would be in the cemetery," she said.

We're heartbroken and there's no way back for us. It might be for some people but not for us.

Jack, who was an only child, was described by his parents as a friend to everyone who could have a chat with anyone he met.

The GAA-mad student at CIT loved going to training and matches and enjoyed fixing hurleys which littered the front porch of their home.

"He could strike up a conversation with anyone and he could talk about anything, sport especially," Elaine said.

He spoke to his Grandad on the phone every evening without fail and often called his mother his mother his best friend.

"He was a strong man but gentle, he had a presence," Johnny said of the 6ft2 "giant of a man".

Studying accounting, a dream he'd had since he was eight-years-old, Jack was enjoying life in CIT and had a wide group of friends both in Cork and at home.

"Poor Jack, the way his life ended - that wasn't the way he lived his life," Elaine said.

The cortege leaving St Oliver's Church in Clonmel for Jacks funeral.
The cortege leaving St Oliver's Church in Clonmel for Jacks funeral.

The couple brought his friends to his bed in the Intensive Care Unit in CUH to see Jack and the damage that taking drugs had caused.

"It was something we had to do, we were duty-bound to let them see him," Johnny said.

Jack's friends were "shocked" to see the tubes attached to him, but his parents wanted to hit home the reality of taking drugs so that none of them would end up in a similar situation.

Elaine described that when the last friend left Jack's side he had a tear in his eye.

They both thanked the brilliant doctors and nurses at CUH, as well as the "unbelievable" support they received from family, friends, neighbours, gardai and the GAA.

Jack's funeral took place two weeks ago in Clonmel and he was buried in his Debs suit as he was due to attend the dance with a friend on the Tuesday after the festival.

He was also buried with a letter from a special friend, Ellie. "She wrote him a letter and we put it in as near to his heart as we could," Elaine said.

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