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inquest Friends begged tragic Jack Downey 'on their knees' not to take any more ecstasy at music festival

The Tipperary student died from multiple organ failure after body temperature soared from ingesting ecstasy and morphine

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Jack Downey’s parents John and Elaine with a picture of their only child in Clonmel. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Jack Downey’s parents John and Elaine with a picture of their only child in Clonmel. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Jack Downey’s parents John and Elaine with a picture of their only child in Clonmel. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Friends were pleading with a teenager not to take any more drugs at a music festival before his death from total organ failure, an inquest has heard.

Tipperary student Jack Downey died after his organs failed when his body temperature soared, following the ingestion of ecstasy and morphine as he attended the Indiependence music festival in Cork.

A Cork Coroner's inquest into the death heard the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) student died from total organ failure despite the desperate efforts of doctors to stabilise his condition in August 2019.

Coroner Philip Comyn said taking ecstasy was like "playing Russian roulette" after he heard it is impossible to know precisely what is in each MDMA tablet – and what effect they will have on an individual user.

Mr Comyn returned a verdict of death by misadventure for the young man.

He warned there was no such thing as a safe street drug and said those who use such substances effectively take their lives in their hands.

“Jack was not a regular drug user. Young people of today have such opportunities in front of them but they also have greater opportunities to take these drugs. There is no such thing as a safe illicit street drug,” he said, adding it was a tragedy the teenager decided to dabble with the drug.

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Jack Downey (19) who died after falling ill at Indiependence music festival

Jack Downey (19) who died after falling ill at Indiependence music festival

Jack Downey (19) who died after falling ill at Indiependence music festival

The inquest, which was opened and then adjourned in 2020, was told by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster that she performed a post mortem examination on the teen.

Mr Downey died on August 5, three days after falling ill at the popular north Cork music festival.

Dr Bolster conducted the post mortem examination at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on August 6.

She told the inquest the cause of death was total organ failure due to hyperthermia after the ingestion of ecstasy/MDMA and morphine.

Mr Downey was found to have traces of both MDMA and morphine at high levels in his system.

Morphine was found at a level of 1.2 microgrammes, close to the lethal range, though it was not possible to clarify the precise source of the morphine.

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"The level of morphine was very high," she said.

MDMA or ecstasy was found at a level of 1.8 microgrammes – a level Dr Bolster warned was "very high" and within the acknowledged toxic range.

"This history in this case is classic of ecstasy ingestion," she said.

A soaring body temperature was associated with such ingestion with major damage to the brain and other organs including the kidneys and liver.

"Trauma played no role in this young man's death," she said.

The inquest heard Mr Downey and one of his friends had sourced MDMA in south Tipperary before they went to the music festival.

One of the teens paid €200 for 7g of the drug.

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The funeral of Jack Downey at St Oliver’s, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

The funeral of Jack Downey at St Oliver’s, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

The funeral of Jack Downey at St Oliver’s, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

The inquest heard the deceased had given €100 to another youth toward the cost of the shared drugs and had told one friend he was going to use drugs rather than alcohol at the event.

The deceased and one of his friends had helped divide the purchased drugs into individual “baggies”, with Mr Downey taking three of the small packets.

One friend said people with the deceased had begged him to stop taking the MDMA on the day.

The deceased was seen to have taken a small bag of MDMA from his underpants.

One friend said he saw Mr Downey take the MDMA on three separate occasions at the campsite and was very worried for him.

Mr Downey was seen "shaking viciously" while seated in a camp chair and then speaking in "an almost robotic way – he was very slow getting the words out."

One friend said: "People were begging him not to take any more. Loads of people [at the festival campsite] begged him to stop... they were on their knees. But he would not listen. It was like he was possessed."

The teenager was seen "snorting" from the small plastic bag.

Mr Downey became unresponsive a short time later as well as shaking and sweating and was placed in his tent while security staff and paramedics were alerted.

"It all happened so fast," another friend said.

Mr Downey's heartbroken parents, John and Elaine, attended the inquest.

John Downey is a Clonmel-based garda.

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Jack Downey with his mother Elaine. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Jack Downey with his mother Elaine. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Jack Downey with his mother Elaine. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Days after their son's death, John and Elaine issued an impassioned plea for youngsters to look after each other and to stay away from drugs which “destroy lives”.

Gardaí believe the substance was sourced in south Tipperary.

Detectives focused their investigation on a number of known drug dealers in the south Tipperary area.

Gardaí vowed the investigation "would leave no stone unturned" in trying to determine where the substance involved originated from.

They had spoken to dozens of people who were in contact with the teen in the 24 hours before his death.

Sergeant Fergal Twomey told the inquest that gardaí submitted a comprehensive investigation file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

"No prosecution has been directed in this case," he said.

Detective Sergeant James O’Shea thanked the friends of the deceased for their assistance with the investigation.

He said that it was a “desperate tragedy”.

A first-year Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) accountancy student, Mr Downey complained of feeling unwell at the Mitchelstown event around 5pm on Friday August 2, shortly after arriving on site from Clonmel.

He was rushed to CUH but was in a critical condition on arrival.

Mr Downey died three days later having failed to regain consciousness.

His heartbroken parents had maintained a vigil by his CUH bedside.

The young man, who sat his Leaving Cert in 2018, was the only child of John and Elaine .

Mr Downey's Requiem Mass took place amid tragic scenes in his native Clonmel.

John and Elaine urged the friends of their GAA-obsessed son to "look after each other".

"I used to sit back and just admire him – he was a man with a presence. A cheeky little smile," John said.

"He was a fabulous boy and I am proud to call him my son."

Elaine said the 19-year-old was "the star" of his entire family.

"Jack William Downey, you were the love of my life," she said.

"We cannot let what happened to Jack happen to any other boy or girl. People have to stand up and speak. All it takes is one big mistake and the results are awful and horrendous.”

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