AN INQUEST into the death of a man who collapsed after inadvertently drinking from a bottle that was laced with cocaine has ruled his death was an accident.
Joromie Lewis, 33, of Kings Road, Gosport, died in December last year after consuming some of a Cole Cold Pear-D juice drink.
Mr Lewis, a father of one, became immediately ill after drinking the juice and died within hours at Southampton General Hospital.
The Royal Navy veteran was described as a ‘devoted family-orientated man with a selfless attitude’ by his widow Jayrusha.
An inquest was held today at Winchester Coroner’s Court.
Pathologist Dr Basil Nigel Purdue said Mr Lewis was found to have 21.3mg/l of cocaine in his blood at a post mortem, which took place two days after he died.
Dr Purdue said: ‘The amount of cocaine in his blood system at the time of his death was overwhelmingly large.’
Dr Purdue said this level may have been higher immediately after Mr Lewis’s death.
He said there had been deaths by as little as 1mg/l and that of 19 post mortems involving cocaine consumption the average level was 5.3mg/l.
The court heard that a colleague of Mr Lewis dipped his finger into the drink and put it in his mouth, which caused his tongue to go numb for three hours.
Dr Purdue said he found contaminates which suggested the cocaine was illicit and that he found no evidence of Mr Lewis previously using the drug.
He said that nothing could have been done to reverse the effects once Mr Lewis had consumed the drug.
The inquest also heard evidence from Juannette Allen, whose house Mr Lewis was at when he consumed the drink.
Mr Lewis had been collecting drinks for delivery from Ms Allen’s garage in Bitterne in his role as a part-time delivery driver for Kelly’s Shipping UK Ltd, which imports and exports goods to and from the Caribbean, when he drank from the bottle.
Ms Allen said the company did not know the drink was amongst the consignment that had arrived into the port at Portsmouth from Saint Vincent on November 24. She said they had not ordered any Pear-D and were not sure how the bottle came to be amongst various other drinks in the garage, which Mr Lewis had previously collected and dropped off at the garage.
The import company was run as a sideline to Ms Allen’s full-time job as a writer in the Royal Navy and she operated the business with her partner Phillon Kelly, who is also in the Army.
Ms Allen told the inquest that Mr Lewis had taken a swig from the Pear-D bottle at about 7pm and then immediately spat it out, complaining it tasted bitter.
He then proceeded to try and make himself sick and Ms Allen gave him some sugar to counterbalance the taste.
Mr Lewis told Ms Allen to ring Mr Kelly and tell him to get the contents of the bottled tested.
A fellow delivery driver Carlos Deabreu took Mr Lewis to the Royal South Hants Hospital walk-in centre, in Southampton, but by the time the pair arrived Mr Lewis was suffering from seizures and he collapsed on the floor outside.
An ambulance was called and he was taken to Southampton General Hospital, where he died at 11.35pm.
Detective Sergeant Glynn White told the inquest the Food Standards Agency were so concerned that other bottles containing cocaine could be in shops, that an announcement was made to warn the public, effectively scuppering any chance of finding the culprits.
He said that police could not trace the person who had ordered the consignment, who used the alias Samantha McDadi.
Sgt White said: ‘She was not somebody that could be identified. The telephone number that was linked to her consignment was only used for a very short period of time once the order was confirmed and during the evening when the drinks were being collected. The email address was not British and that quickly led to a dead end.’
He estimated that up to 2,000 bottles were on the consignment and he gave a single bottle a street value of £50,000.
Sgt White said that police are no longer investigating the death as they could not find anyone else involved and that no one had been prosecuted.
He added that one theory could be that the smugglers had used a Pear-D bottle to conceal the drugs and then hide that amongst a container of Buster juice, which Kelly’s Shipping UK Ltd had handled, so they could easily identify the cocaine.
Ms Allen said that some of the bottles had come loose on the last delivery and that Mr Lewis did not need to ask to take a drink, which others in the business did too.
Coroner Grahame Short presided over the inquest, which was decided by a jury due to the death happening in a work place.
Mr Short said: ‘This was a tragedy in the real sense of the word.’