United Kingdom

Schoolboy, 14, died after taking less than a single Ecstasy tablet

A 14-year-old schoolboy died after taking less than a single tablet of Ecstasy during a sleepover with friends who were keen to 'experiment' with the drug, an inquest heard today.

Luke Pennington suffered a fatal reaction at a house party in Stockport and died 24 hours later after his 'loving family' agreed to withdraw life support in March 2018.

A coroner said the 'popular and well-liked' teenager, who attended a Catholic school, died accidentally after taking less than 1g of the party drug. A friend who took it moments after him also fell ill, but survived.

Stockport coroner Alison Mutch also told his heartbroken parents, who were at the inquest into their son's death: 'I am very sorry for your loss. It is very clear that there was nothing you could have done to change the outcome. It is very clear how loved he was and the care you put into his upbringing.'

Police initially believed Luke had been taking the so-called 'Zombie-drug' Spice but post mortem tests showed he died as a result of MDMA toxicity, taking less than a whole tablet. 

Police arrested a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs but no further action was taken against him. None of the boys at the sleepover gave evidence at the inquest. 

Luke Pennington suffered a fatal reaction to ecstasy at a house party in Stockport and died 24 hours later after his 'loving family' agreed to withdraw life support in March 2018

The coroner told the family of Luke, pictured with his mother Stacey, that there was nothing they could have done to prevent the tragedy

The tragedy occurred on March 17, 2018, after Luke and other boys were staying over at a house in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

The group bought the substance earlier that evening and later at the house, Luke, took it first, followed by a friend and both of them fell ill.

Luke was found unconscious in March 2018 at a house in Stockport and never recovered

Det Ch Insp Christopher Downey of Greater Manchester Police told the Stockport hearing: 'Luke and his friends were all keen to experiment with drugs and they all willingly agreed to purchase the drugs.

'Nobody knows how they were going to react to taking drugs. MDMA is known as a party drug but it can have tragic consequences. Luke and his friends all wanted to experiment in drugs. Luke was confident and was leading on the other boys.

'None of the adults in his life had any idea of what he was going to do that night. He is of a very caring family. The parents and family of those who had the sleepover are in no way to blame for this.

'They did everything to keep their children as safe as possible. The boys were experimenting and did not know what they were getting themselves into. This is a very sad and tragic case.'

He added: 'Criminal proceedings were not successful in relation to the supply of drugs as Luke himself came into possession of these drugs and activity would have escalated.'

Earlier Gemma Caswell a paramedic said: 'I received a call to go to an address where we were told Luke had swallowed 1g of MDMA at 12.30am.

'Luke was unconscious at the time when the ambulance arrived and he was given critical medication whilst preparing him for the ambulance. They arrived in A&E at 1.41am.'

Fellow paramedic Kenneth Green said: 'He was very unwell, had a high temperature and his heart rate was very high'.

The Catholic schoolboy was rushed to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool where he badly deteriorated and later died when his life support was withdrawn

Dr Naveen Rao a Consultant Paediatrician at Wythenshawe Hospital said: 'Luke arrived by ambulance and he was sweating profusely and fitting. He went to the emergency resuscitation department and was in extensive care. His condition continued to deteriorate. He was moved to Alder Hey Hospital at 3pm on March 17.'

Dr Sarah Mahoney also a consultant paediatrician of Alder Hey Hospital added: 'Luke had taken MDMA and was extremely unwell. His condition did not stabilise and continued to deteriorate. There was a discussion with his family. He was sadly dying despite being on full life support in intensive care.

'His life support was withdrawn after a discussion with the family and he died peacefully at 1.15am on March 18.'

Recording a conclusion of drug related death, Stockport coroner Alison Mutch told the hearing: 'The death of anyone is always difficult but the death of a child is always particularly difficult. It is clear from the evidence I have heard, he was apart of a very loving family.

'DCI Downey describes his family as being extremely caring and extremely supportive towards their son.

'It is also clear he and his friends decided to experiment with MDMA. This is a drug that is portrayed as a party drug, but what was clear from the pathologist and toxicologist that it comes with great risks.

'It is not like buying a packet of paracetamol over the counter, these drugs are unpredictable. Sadly, the drug had an effect neither he or those with him could have predicted. The impact on the drug on a young person was particularly violent. Luke became very unwell after ingesting the drug.

'Emergency services responded ASAP and Luke was transferred to Wythenshawe hospital. Medical staff worked tirelessly to reverse the impact of the MDMA in his body but Luke was transferred to Alder Hey and was in intensive care. His condition did not improve, it deteriorated.

'His family were put in the position that no family wants to make, but they made the right decision given the information that his life support should be withdrawn. Luke sadly died shortly after'. 

Luke's family were at the hearing but declined to comment afterwards. None of the boys involved in the sleepover gave evidence at the inquest.

Luke, who attended St James Catholic High School in Cheadle Hulme, was described by his teachers as 'popular and well-liked'

St James' headmaster Tim Beesley said in a statement: 'Our thoughts, prayers and sympathy go out to his family and friends at this very difficult time. We are offering support for any of our students who have been affected by his death, particularly those who knew him, as he was a very popular and well-liked member of our school community.'

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