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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Cocaine bag burst kills smuggler


A Colombian woman made a 10,300km flight carrying half a kilogram of cocaine in her stomach - and died at Auckland Hospital 37 minutes after one of the 26 packages of the drug leaked into her body. Sorlinda Arirtizabel Vega, 37, arrived in Auckland from Buenos Aires in Argentina on Tuesday morning. She cleared Customs without any problems and travelled into the city with her partner and children. But by early Wednesday morning, Mrs Vega was dead. She was admitted to the emergency department at Auckland Hospital at 5.44am on Wednesday, and was declared dead at 6.21am. The Herald has learned her partner took her to the hospital and then left to go and see to their children. He was back with Mrs Vega when police arrived, but it is unclear whether he was there when she died. "The woman was unable to be revived, despite vigorous resuscitation, following cardiac arrest," a hospital spokeswoman said. Police were called to the hospital, as is procedure with a sudden death. During a post mortem examination, doctors found at least 26 20g packages filled with a white substance believed to be cocaine. "That is more than half a kilo which, if established to be cocaine, would have had an estimated street value of up to $175,000," said Detective Inspector Scott Beard. He said at least one of the packages had burst inside Mrs Vega, but would not be drawn on what material they were made of. "It went into her body and her body couldn't cope," he said. "There are always serious risks to health when smuggling drugs internally, and this woman has paid with her life." Mr Beard said Mrs Vega was in Auckland on holiday, not for the Rugby World Cup. She travelled to New Zealand with family members. Mr Beard would not be drawn on who those family members were but said they were in Auckland and not being held by police. He said they would be spoken to and police were also looking into whether Mrs Vega had any links with local organised crime groups. She came through Customs at Auckland Airport with no problems, and Mr Beard said she was the first person this year to be caught carrying drugs internally. Emergency doctor Paul Quigley told 3 News there was no way Mrs Vega could have survived. "She had the equivalent of 80 doses of cocaine all in one go, so she would have developed extreme high blood pressure and may have had a stroke and a heart attack," he said. "She may have got a degree of anxiety at first, felt shaky, but it is likely she would have gone into cardiac arrest and collapsed very rapidly." Mrs Vega's death has been referred to the coroner but Mr Beard said a police investigation was continuing.


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