South East Wales

Cocaine death of footballer Adam Rice prompts coroner's warning

Adam Rice
Image caption Adam Rice took cocaine just to 'chill out', a friend said

A coroner says the death of a "fit and healthy" footballer from cocaine shows even a small amount of the class A drug can prove fatal.

Adam Rice, 26, from Cardiff, died of an irregular heart beat after taking "a few lines" of cocaine the day before a game for local team Llanrumney United.

A pathologist told the inquest that taking the drug had made the footballer's heart "short circuit".

Cardiff coroner Mary Hassell recorded a verdict of death by abuse of drugs.

The cause of Mr Rice's death was given as cocaine induced arrhythmia meaning he had abnormal electrical activity in the heart which caused an irregular beat.

Best friend Sean Dixon told the inquest: "He'd take a line of cocaine every so often but so do lots of people.

"He would just take it to chill out the way other people would have a drink. Drugs didn't rule his life - he was a hard worker and a great friend."

The inquest was told Mr Rice returned to his home ahead of his match for Saturday league team Llanrumney United FC in August.

'Very sudden'

His mother, Olive Girdler, said he was home by 23:00 BST and was "smiling and seemed fine".

She said: "I told him I was going to bed. He said 'OK, can you wake me up at 9.30', because he had football. That was the last time I saw him alive."

Cardiff Coroners Court heard that the next morning Mr Rice's step dad found him lying dead in the back garden

A post mortem examination found that he less than 0.5 milligrams of cocaine per litre of blood.

Pathologist Anurag Joshi said: "The cocaine caused his heart to short circuit. One minute the heart was pumping blood then it stopped - it would have been very sudden.

"Deaths have been reported with as little as 0.029 milligrams of cocaine per litre of blood.

"Just having cocaine in the blood can be enough to cause a cardiac arrhythmia.

"There's no safe level of cocaine at all. One day it could be OK and the next it's not OK - and that's the problem with cocaine."

Cardiff Coroner Mary Hassell said: "Adam was a very fit and healthy young man with no medical disease.

"He used cocaine on a recreational basis. It's not that he had taken buckets and buckets of cocaine.

"Even a very small amount of cocaine can damage the heart this way.

"One day there can be no consequences - the next day it can be fatal."

She recorded a verdict of death by abuse of drugs.