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Woman ‘died in fall at hotel after taking cannabis jelly’

A coronor has issued a warning about the risks associated with taking cannabis infused jellies following an inquest into the death of a US citizen who died after she fell two storeys at a hotel in Co Limerick a year ago.

45-year-old Katerine Batchelder, also known as Katie, a native of Boston but whose mother Fidelma is from Limerick city, was on holidays with her mother and sister Stephanie to enjoy the Riverfest festival in the city last May, and to attend a concert at King John’s Castle being performed by her cousins who are members of the band Hermitage Green.

Her inquest heard that she had been in very good form and was enjoying the weekend and looking forward to returning home to the US on 2 May 2023 to see her husband and two children.

Tragically, she fell to her death from the balcony of her room on the third floor onto the first floor of the Strand Hotel shortly after 3am that morning after other guests and hotel staff witnessed her in a very distressed and incoherent state in the hotel corridor.

Her husband Aarav Sundaresh and her long-time friend Corinne Teed, who were both back home in the US, had spoken to her earlier and were alarmed by her distressed state and alerted hotel personnel.

Her inquest heard that the two hotel night personnel who were on duty went to her assistance and tried to bring her down the lift to the ground floor.

They also called gardaí and asked them to come to the hotel to assist with a woman believed to be intoxicated.

Gardaí told the inquest they were informed the woman had fallen onto the first floor by the time they had arrived at the hotel, and they quickly called paramedics, but she died despite their efforts to save her.

Toxicology reports

There was also evidence that she had consumed half of an an edible cannabis jelly which was found in her hotel room.

Medical evidence at the inquest found she had died as a result of a fracture to her skull and substantial blood loss, as a result of falling head first off her hotel balcony down two floors.

Pathologist Dr Gabor Laskai said toxicology reports found no alcohol in Ms Batchelder’s system, but there was evidence of cannabis, and the anti depressant drug Citalopram, which was above the prescribed therapeutic level but not at toxic levels.

The two substances might have interacted with untold effects, Dr Laskai said.

Limerick Coronor John McNamara said this was a very tragic and distressing case, but he was not satisfied that the bar had been reached to indicate that what happened to Ms Batchelder was an intentional act.

But it was clear that there was a psychotic episode, induced by consumption of an edible cannabis jelly as well as the synthesization impact of it with prescribed medicine, he said.

While Katie did not intend such a reaction, the coroner said it triggered something that resulted in the episode which followed.

He returned a narrative verdict in line with the medical evidence, but recommended that the dangers of these infused cannabis jellies be brought to the attention of the public and at large, and he will be writing to the health authorities making a general recommendation along those lines.

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