Student died with over four times fatal level of cocaine in his system, inquest hears

John Kennedy Santos Gurjao died after one of 113 pellets ruptured

Student died with over four times fatal level of cocaine in his system, inquest hears

File photo | Image: RollingNews.ie

A 24-year-old Brazilian student who died from accidental cocaine poisoning while trying to smuggle almost a kilo of the drug into Ireland had over four times the fatal level of the drug in his system after a pellet ruptured inside him, an inquest has heard.

John Kennedy Santos Gurjao died after taking ill aboard an Aer Lingus flight from Lisbon to Dublin on the afternoon of October 18th 2015 - when one of 113 cocaine pellets, which he had ingested, ruptured in the area between his duodenum and his rectum.

Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster said that toxicology tests on Mr Gurjao found he had a cocaine level of 20 microgrammes per millilitre of blood which was over four times the average fatal level of 4.6 microgrammes per millilitre of blood found in another 37 other fatal cases.

Coroner for South Cork, Frank O'Connell said that Mr Gurjao - from Rua Cassiano Germino, Barrio Felicinade, Calçoene in Amapá in Brazil - died from accidental cocaine poisoning involving a massively high concentration of cocaine in his system as he extended his sympathies to his family in Brazil.

John Kennedy Santos Gurjao | Image: Facebook

Witness, Olga Pinto, told how she met Mr Gurgao at Lisbon Airport and he was sweating profusely and highly agitated but she thought this was because his visa was due to expire that day and he was trying to get back to Dublin to resume studying English and he feared he might be refused entry.

Cabin crew member Orla MacCarvill told how they were some 45 minutes into the flight with 169 passengers on board when she became aware of a disturbance when a man started climbing over the seats and standing on passengers to try and get to the toilet at the rear of the plane.

She told him to stop but he ignored her so she informed the captain and co-pilot before making her way with other cabin crew to the toilet area - where she found the man emerging from the cubicle in a very wobbly, agitated state shouting in Portuguese.

Olga Pinto translated and told them that he was looking for medicines in his bag.

Medical personnel on-board

He took two tablets from a foil pack but would not hand the pack over to them, Ms MacCarvill said, adding that he made to try and throw the tablets out a porthole.

He continued to be agitated before getting what seemed like a seizure so they appealed over the intercom for medical personnel to assist.

A male nurse, a female nurse and a female doctor responded and came to the back of the plane to assist, she said.

Nurse Keith Carroll told how they gave Mr Gurgao oxygen and he fell unconscious but continued breathing and he seemed to stabilise.

He then woke and bit another passenger on the arm, so cabin crew had to get restraints and two cabin crew managed to handcuff him behind his back.

Olga Pinto said that Mr Gurgao kept on shouting "Help, help, I'm going to die" in Portuguese and she thought that cabin crew were being too brutal when restraining him.

She also thought that they had broken his arm, but evidence was given that he had not suffered any fractures during the incident.

The inquest heard that Mr Carroll, another nurse Fiona Kirwan, and Dr Michelle Brannigan continued to give Mr Gurgao CPR for over 40 minutes after he suffered a second seizure and a decision was made to divert to Cork Airport but he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Dr Bolster's autopsy found that Mr Gurgao had some bruising around his wrists where he had been handcuffed, but he had suffered no fractures and there was no evidence that trauma played any part in his death - which was due solely to fatal levels of cocaine found in his system.

Detective Garda Brid Norris told the inquest that gardaí established that the 113 pellets, which each measured almost three centimetres long by a centimetre in diameter, totalled 961 grammes of cocaine, just under a kilo of the drug, and had a street value of €70,000.

Mr O'Connell praised the medical personnel on the flight for their heroic efforts to save Mr Gurgao.

Reporting by Barry Roche