A coroner has warned drug mules that they are playing Russian roulette after a Brazilian man suffered a painful death when one of the cocaine pellets he had ingested burst on a flight from Lisbon to Dublin. The 24-year-old was reported to be carrying 1 kg of cocaine within 113 pellets, which had a street value of €70,000. No details are known as to how much the deceased was paid to bring the drugs into Ireland, but drug mules are thought to make as little as €1500 to carry drugs internally.

Coroner for Cork County, Frank O’Connell, was told at the inquest into the death that John Kennedy Santos Gurjao became distressed about 1 hour into the Aer Lingus flight. He was so agitated that he bit a passenger on the arm and began jumping over seats, he was told.

To onlookers, Mr Gurjao seemed nervous and was sweating. During the flight, he began shouting, “I am going to die”.

A decision was made to divert the plane to Cork Airport and Mr Gurjao was handcuffed. Nurses on board the flight performed CPR for more than 40 minutes before landing in a bid to save Mr Gurjao but he was pronounced dead on arrival by a local medic.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said toxicology tests on Mr Gurjao found he had a cocaine level of 20 μg/mL of blood which was over four times the average level found in another 37 fatal cases. The cause of death was acute cocaine intoxication.

Mr O’Connell paid tribute to the cabin crew and nurses who tried to assist Mr Gurjao, saying that they had made heroic efforts in what must have been a frightening experience. He said that the death was a warning to all those who are thinking of being a drug mule.

“Unfortunately, if you are carrying drugs in your body and one of the capsules burst, the results are probably going to be fatal”, he said. “This man was simply poisoned with cocaine where just one of the capsules broke. There was no hope for him.”

“It is Russian roulette”, he said. “If it is cocaine or another class A type drug, if it bursts and gets in to your system you are going to die.”

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