Belfast Telegraph

Man drowned after snorting cocaine

A man high on cocaine and drink following a late-night party drowned in the River Lagan while hiding from police, an inquest has heard.

Oran Rodgers, 28, had been snorting the drug in his hotel room at the Ramada Belfast near Shaw`s Bridge last November during a champagne and vodka-fuelled weekend away to celebrate his new fiancee`s birthday.

Hotel managers called officers because of the noise and Mr Rodgers, facing alleged unrelated charges of disorderly behaviour at another hotel and in breach of his bail conditions, panicked and disappeared towards the pitch-black riverbank near the Lock Keeper`s Cottage.

Trevor O`Brien was eating a takeaway in a nearby car park with his girlfriend and saw the outline of a figure jogging past then heard screams.

"I could see arms thrashing about in the water, more shouts for help just under the footbridge," he told the Belfast hearing.

He raced back to his car, turned its headlights on the river and got a tow rope. By the time he and his girlfriend Lisa Blyth returned they could only see a trainer, floating in the water.

"The person had disappeared and I thought they clambered out somewhere," he said. "I was extremely shocked and upset about what happened and not being able to help more at the time."

Mr Rodgers, a plasterer from Lisheeghan Lane near Ballymoney, arrived at the hotel for a two-night break to celebrate the birthday of his girlfriend Jane Brown with some friends. He had been drinking heavily, following an evening at the Precious nightclub in the Odyssey centre in east Belfast.

The group of three couples went back to a room and had a party, continuing to drink. One of the women, Stacey Evans, said Mr Rodgers had been snorting white powder. Chief pathologist professor Jack Crane found cocaine and alcohol equivalent to three times the drink-driving limit in his system.

Senior coroner John Leckey said he seemed to be dealing with cocaine-related deaths with greater frequency, despite it being one of the most expensive drugs on the market. Mr Leckey said the victim drowned after taking cocaine and alcohol.

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