Heartbroken father's warning after boy (16) killed by designer drug
A coroner issued a stark warning over the dangers posed by drugs as it emerged a talented teenage soccer player died from a lethal synthetic party drug nicknamed U4.
Michael Cornacchia (16) died on January 16, 2017, after ingesting "U4", or U-47700, a drug which was also found in the system of pop star Prince.
The death of Mr Cornacchia - a skilled soccer player with Kilreen Celtic who was being monitored by a number of Irish and UK clubs - is the first recorded fatality from U4 in Ireland.
The youngster took the substance believing it was cocaine.
The teen's father, Roberto, urged young people to be aware of the lethal dangers posed by drugs.
"He was going to be a great player - a better man than I am if he got a chance," said the heartbroken father.
"Young people need to be really careful with what is out there - this is not the 1960s, you know."
"I was always against drugs and the head shops and all of that."
"I don't know how this is possible. How is this allowed? A lot of the drugs that have killed these days are actually legally sold - introduced, as far as I know, from China and places like that."
He pleaded with youngsters to realise that simply sampling a drug could cost lives.
Cork Coroner Philip Comyn warned that Ireland urgently needed to take steps to tackle the scourge of drugs which is hitting communities.
His warning came just over a year after he issued a similar plea about Ireland's urgent need to overhaul drug education in schools following another tragic drug-related death.
In that unrelated case, Alex Ryan (18) died in January 2016 after ingesting a synthetic party drug nicknamed "N-Bomb".
Mr Comyn said something urgently needed to be done to highlight the dangers of drugs to youngsters - a call that was endorsed by the heartbroken Ryan family.
"My recommendation is that drugs awareness and education needs to be tackled in a much more structured way, particularly in schools," he said.
Mr Comyn added that youngsters need to realise that a drug may be something totally different to what they believe it to be.
He noted that Mr Cornacchia's death prompted a major HSE public health alert, given the lethal nature of U4.
The coroner heard the inquest into the teen's death after a 17-year-old was handed a detention and supervision order last January after he admitted possession of U4.
The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, received the detention and supervision order after the Probation and Welfare Service was told he did not believe his offence merited a prison sentence.
He was arrested in the wake of the garda investigation into Mr Cornacchia's death.
Mr Cornacchia's mother, Joan, described the sentence as "an insult to her son's memory".
She also backed calls for a "get tough" approach to drugs and warned that the Government needs to block websites where youngsters can source such lethal drugs.
Mr Cornacchia died from the ingestion of a combination of U-47700 and ecstasy.
The inquest returned a verdict of death by misadventure.