Greenock drug dealing suspect died after choking on a package of crack cocaine

John Rice's death was investigated at Greenock Sheriff Court.
-Credit: (Image: Victoria Stewart)

A suspect died after choking on a package of crack cocaine, a probe has found.

John Rice, 55, had been stopped by police who believed he was involved in drug dealing. Rice, of Greenock, Inverclyde, had tried to avoid who had ordered him be searched for illicit material.

But as he attempted to walk away he was spotted placing an object in his mouth. A struggle took place and he was seen to try and swallow the package as police tried to force him to spit it out in February 2021.

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But he started to choke forcing officers to attempt a Heimlich manoeuvre in the hope of removing the object from his throat.

Officers then took it in turns to perform CPR on Rice but mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was not given due to the risk of Covid-19 infection.

Police efforts failed and Rice, who had 25 criminal convictions, was taken by ambulance to Inverclyde Royal Hospital but later died after going into cardiac arrest.

A package that was found lodged in his throat was revealed to contain 8.5 grams of deadly crack cocaine.

A fatal accident inquiry was held at Greenock Sheriff Court where details of Rice's arrest and death in the town were heard.

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Sheriff Principal Sean F Murphy KC has ruled his death was caused by choking on a 'foreign object' and heart disease.

He praised police officers for their efforts to save his life as he struggled to breather after his arrest.

He said: "The death of Mr Rice unfortunately occurred because when he was being approached by the police he swallowed several packages of drugs one of which lodged in his left main bronchia, causing him to choke.

"His pre-existing heart disease contributed to his death. It is not possible to determine whether the presence of other drugs within his system contributed to his death to any significant extent.

"The actions of the police officers at the scene reflect real concern for Mr Rice and they are to be commended for their appraisal of the situation and their sustained attempts to assist him pending the arrival of the paramedical ambulance crew."

He added: "All parties at the inquiry expressed condolences to the family of Mr Rice and to these I add my own condolences."