Belfast Telegraph

Coroner warns over drug risks at inquest into girl (15) killed by ecstasy tablet

 

By Mark Edwards

A "popular and bubbly" 15-year-old lost her life after taking ecstasy, an inquest has heard.

Caitlin White, from Tandragee in Co Armagh, died at Craigavon Area Hospital on May 20 last year after taking the drug, also known as MDMA, while with friends in Corcrain Community Woodland in Portadown.

Emergency services were called to the scene after the Craigavon Senior High pupil became unconscious.

An inquest into her death at Newry courthouse yesterday was told Caitlin's mother Teresa White rushed to Corcrain after struggling to get hold of her daughter on the phone.

In a statement read to the inquest, Deborah Holmes, Caitlin's stepmother, said Miss White had been attempting to call her daughter to ask her if she wanted a lift home.

She said: "My understanding is that one of Caitlin's friends answered her phone and told Teresa that Caitlin could not breathe. We went to Corcrain to try and find Caitlin."

Miss Holmes said she travelled to Corcrain with Miss White and was told by a group of youths where Caitlin was.

"We walked down towards the pitches and there were at least 30 teenagers standing around," she said.

"Some were arguing and appeared to have been drinking. Caitlin was lying on the ground with her friend sitting on the ground beside her and Teresa was standing there too.

"Police were trying to clear some teenagers away. I leaned down and tried to talk to Caitlin, her eyes were open a little bit but she did not respond to me. She felt really hot to touch."

Miss White said her daughter suffered from asthma and blackouts. She added she had "gone off the rails" around last September and had started taking drugs.

Laura Herron (16), who went to school with Caitlin and was present when she collapsed, said she was a "popular and bubbly" student who was "mad, but in a good way".

She said: "She was not quiet about drugs and taking drugs. She would have told everyone, but she did not used to take the hard stuff. Just a bit of cannabis."

Constable Ashley Hutton was called to Corcrain Community Woodland at 5.55pm after receiving a report of concern for the safety of a male. She told the court on arrival Caitlin was unconscious on the ground and that a group of teenagers initially told police Caitlin had drunk too much and had fallen and hit her head. An ambulance was not called by the teenagers, but by the police at 6.33pm.

Paramedic Alan McElmurray said he was not tasked to go to Corcrain until after coming off another job at 7.05pm, arriving at the scene at 7.11pm. He told the court Caitlin went into cardiac arrest while she was being taken into the ambulance. She was then transported to Craigavon Area Hospital.

When asked why there was a gap between 6.33pm and 7.05pm to task an ambulance to go to Corcrain, Mr McElmurray said it was likely no other ambulances were free until after 7pm.

Miss White told the court: "My baby was lying there for a long time before I could get any help."

Dr Gail Browne, a consultant working in intensive care, said Caitlin was pronounced dead at 10.34pm despite aggressive efforts to save her life. Describing the situation as a "tragedy", Ms Browne said nothing more could have been done to save her life.

A pathologist report said Caitlin died due to MDMA toxicity.

Coroner Joe McCrisken said there had been 126 deaths from drug misuse in Northern Ireland last year, the only place in the UK to have seen a decrease in the number of deaths.

However, he said more work had to be done to ensure young people knew the risks of taking drugs.

"This young girl's death really should underline to the community the deadly risks associated with drugs," he said.

"Ecstasy is not a safe drug, no drug is safe when misused.

"It is a deadly drug of which all of our community should be very wary."

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