A FORMAL investigation is under way into how a 999 call was managed after it emerged that an emergency vehicle was available – but wasn't sent – to transfer a toddler with critical head injuries to hospital.
Vakaris Martinaitis (2) died 48 hours after suffering massive injuries when he fell from an upstairs window at the family home in Midleton, Co Cork.
The toddler had to be driven by former All-Ireland hurling star Kevin Hennessy almost 18km in his own car to Cork University Hospital (CUH) with a garda escort.
Mr Hennessy had dialled 999 but he said yesterday that he was told there was "no ambulance available in the area" and he was instead advised to bring the child to a doctor.
However last night the Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed that an emergency vehicle had been "immediately available" to respond to the 999 call.
They have now launched a formal investigation into how the emergency call was managed. Recordings of the alert call will be examined, to determine whether HSE controllers were informed that the boy had fallen from a height.
The review team will include experts in pre-hospital emergency care and primary care from both Ireland and the UK.
Vakaris's parents, Lithuanian nationals Vidas and Aukse, told the Irish Independent that they were "broken-hearted" by the freak accident on Monday.
They donated Vakaris's organs and four children have now benefited from transplants as a result.
Health Minister James Reilly ordered an investigation and described the boy's death as "a terrible tragedy".
"It's a terrible loss for the family and I have asked for a report on it. We will investigate this. The ambulance service is a critical part of our health service and we will investigate what happened," he said.
The investigation will include a detailed examination of the log containing all ambulance callouts, vehicle movements as well as public contacts.
The HSE said no further comment would be made until the facts had been clarified.
There is a Youghal ambulance and ambulances regularly cover Midleton from Cork city. The sprawling town also has its own first responder vehicle.
This is why a key element of the probe will be an examination of why one of these vehicles was not scrambled – and whether HSE controllers were aware that the boy was so seriously injured, having fallen from a height.
Last night, Vidas and Aukse spoke of their devastation at the freak accident.
"I cannot believe what has happened. I have not told my daughter yet," Aukse said.
Her daughter, around six years older than Vakaris, is due to make her First Holy Communion next week.
"Vakaris was a beautiful little boy. We have great thanks for our neighbours and the people that have helped us. Everyone has been very kind to us," she said.
The mother paid an emotional tribute to Mr Hennessy for all he had tried to do for her son. "He was very kind. We will never forget what he did for Vakaris."
Vidas wept as he recalled how his son fell from the first floor window of their home at The Paddocks in Castleredmond, just 2km outside Midleton.
"I could not save my son. But his organs were donated so at least four other children now have the chance of life thanks to him," he said.
"But I will never get the chance to play football with him or to take him fishing. He was a beautiful little boy. When he woke up in the morning he gave me a hug."
Vakaris suffered critical head injuries in the 2pm fall and, as his father desperately tried to help him, he was spotted by Mr Hennessy.
The former hurling star immediately stopped his car and rang for an ambulance.
"I was told that there was no ambulance available in the area and was advised to get the child to a doctor as soon as possible," he said.
Vidas had no transport as his wife had taken the family's only car to her work.
Mr Hennessy, who has first-aid training, immediately drove the little boy and his father to the SouthDoc GP cover service in Midleton but was advised to get him to CUH immediately.