Cork county coroner Frank O’Connell made his comments at a double inquest into the deaths of friends Michael Coleman, 22, of Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and Liam Coffey, 22, of Cappoquin, Co Waterford, who died after taking a lethal mix of MDMA (ecstasy powder) and PMMA, an amphetamine- type substance.
Mr O’Connell described the two young men as “innocents” who did not know what they were taking and did not know the risks involved. He recorded verdicts of death by misadventure in both cases.
Mr Coleman’s girlfriend, Ciara Drummey, told the inquest in Bandon she, Mr Coleman and his friend Mr Coffey returned from Dungarvan to Abbey Lane, Kinsale, where they shared a house, on September 8, 2012, and spent the evening drinking. At one point, she went into the sitting-room from the kitchen and noticed the two men had a bit of “scrunched-up” paper in the palms of their hands.
“I saw them put their hands to their mouths at the same time. It was obvious they had swallowed something,” said Ms Drummey, who added that she also heard them talking about “Mandy”, the street name for ecstasy, among themselves.
Ms Drummey went to bed around midnight. When she woke some hours later and noticed that Mr Coleman was not in bed she went downstairs. There she found Mr Coffey lying on a sofa bed, and her boyfriend hunched between the armchair and the banisters.
“Liam just looked like he was asleep. I went to shake him to tell him there was something wrong with Michael. I found he was cold and then I noticed his eyes were open.”
The distraught woman tried to move her boyfriend and attempted mouth-to-mouth on him.
She also alerted the neighbours and called the emergency services.
Det Garda Jason Wallace told Cork County Coroner’s Court that Kinsale Garda Station received a call at 6.20am from a member of the public that there was a woman hysterical on the street.
Garda and emergency services were quickly on the scene and both men were pronounced dead at 7am.
A small amount of brown, wet crystalline substance was discovered in the house, which was analysed and subsequently identified as a mixture of PMMA and MDMA.
Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said the levels of MDMA and PMMA for both men were within the fatal range.
The coroner said he was pretty sure that the two men took the drugs thinking it was recreational and would do them no harm. He said it was also accepted that the people handling the drugs did not know what was in it. but he said that somewhere back along the chain someone “made a deadly poison”.
“If anybody is taking ecstasy and is reassured it was a safe drug, they are making a major mistake. There is a huge risk involved, he said.
“These are deadly poisons that should not be meddled with.”