Belfast Telegraph

Deaths related to cocaine on rise in Northern Ireland, warns coroner

By Anna Maguire

Cocaine-related deaths are on the rise, Northern Ireland’s most senior coroner has warned.

John Leckey made the comments at an inquest into the death of Oran Francis Rodgers — who drowned in the River Lagan on November 13 last year as he fled police following a night out.

The Ballymoney man flouted bail conditions ordering him to stay within a certain area, to treat his fiancee to a break for her birthday in the Ramada Hotel near south Belfast’s Shaw’s Bridge.

The body of the plasterer (26), from Lisheeghan Lane, was pulled from the River Lagan hours after celebrating with friends.

A pathologist’s report indicated cocaine and three times the legal limit of alcohol in his body.

Stacey Evans said she witnessed her partner, Stephen Hurley, and his lifelong friend, Oran, snort white powder before leaving for a nightclub, and on their return.

At around 2am, the couples arrived back to the hotel where they continued drinking in their rooms.

The hotel’s night manager Stephen McFerran asked the group twice to keep the noise down before calling the police.

His former fiancee, Jane Brown, said he returned to their room at 4am and told her he would have to leave, lifting his wallet and a packet of cigarettes.

Within hours emergency services recovered the 26-year-old’s body from the lock near the south Belfast hotel.

Coroner John Leckey — who asked whether cocaine contributed to the the deceased’s man “complete over-reaction” — told the inquest: “We seem to have, with greater frequency, reports of death where cocaine misuse has factored in somewhere.”

He added: “Oran Rodgers drowned in fresh water but contributing factors (were) alcohol and cocaine ingestion.”

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