The parents of a 15-year-old girl who died after reportedly taking a new psychoactive substance have urged other teenagers to “make better and safer choices”.
Leah Kerry was found unconscious in Bakers Park in Newton Abbot, Devon, after apparently taking a new psychoactive substance (NPS).
She was taken to Torbay hospital at about 4.50am on 15 July and later died there with her parents at her bedside.
Two other girls who are believed to have taken the same substance were taken to hospital as a precaution and released later.
In a statement issued through Devon and Cornwall police, Leah’s family described her death as “the most painful experience that we have all ever had to endure”.
“Leah was a delightful, strong-willed, caring and compassionate child and had developed into a courageous and confident young woman who was ready to take on the world,” they said.
“Leah had really started to engage in her education and, for the first time since leaving primary school, felt very well accepted and supported by her school setting in Salisbury.
“She had a real love of expensive make-up products, and ambitions of following her dreams of doing make-up and beauty professionally.
“This was a talent that she had already mastered on herself – Leah loved to look nice, she would never leave the house without her Jeffree Star highlighter being over-zealously applied, and she shimmered and shone her way through her life.”
Leah “lit up any room she walked into with her incredible personality, sense of humour, striking looks and demeanour,” the family said.
Leah had made lifelong friendswhile living in Torquay, Devon, and maintained the friendships despite the family having relocated to Wiltshire at the start of 2015.
She was happiest when with friends in both Wiltshire and Devon, where she regularly returned, her family said.
“Leah had the benefit of good information and advice from many different sources at various intervals of her adolescent life,” her family added. “Leah was well aware of the nature of different illicit substances and the risks attached.
“Sadly, despite being well aware of the risks, she thought she was invincible and she rolled the dice and has paid the ultimate price.
“If there are any young people who have known Leah, or who have heard about her story, I would urge them on Leah’s behalf to not make the same mistake and to make better and safer choices when out in the community.
“If even one young person decides to reduce their risk-taking behaviour and not take these dangerous NPS tablets, then Leah’s death has not been in vain.”
The family also asked for the government to place the dangers of psychoactive substances at the top of their agenda; the drugs strategy for 2017 was published the day before Leah’s death.
The Psychoactive Substances Act, which came into effect in May 2016, made it illegal to produce, supply or import NPS for human consumption.
“It’s so shocking that a 15-year-old girl who is socialising with other 15-year-old peers is able to easily have access to a drug so strong that it could lead to her death in the way that it did,” they said.
Leah’s parents thanked staff at Torbay hospital’s accident and emergency department and the paramedics who “tirelessly” tried to help their daughter.
Jacob Khanlarian, 20, from Newton Abbot, has been charged with two counts of supplying MDMA and one count of supplying cannabis.
He appeared at Plymouth magistrates court on 17 July and was remanded in custody.