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Thursday 21 September 2017

Barred windows hindered rescue

Gareth Naughton

RESCUERS could not get a woman out of a basement flat during torrential flooding last year because there were bars on the windows, an inquest heard.

Filipino hospice worker and mother-of-one Celia De Jesus drowned at her flat on Parnell Road in the Harold's Cross area of Dublin.

Dublin Coroner's Court yesterday heard how neighbours frantically tried to save Mrs De Jesus as she screamed for help.

However, the landlord who owned the flat insisted that the bars on the windows could have been removed.

The solicitor representing the family, Elizabeth Ferris, told the court that the deceased's husband and 19-year-old son were not able to attend the inquest because immigration officials had refused permission for them to remain in Ireland beyond their initial visas.

The flat was flooded during extremely heavy rain on October 24 last, as water engulfed houses on Parnell Road from the nearby River Poddle.

Mrs De Jesus's upstairs neighbour, Larija Vingre, said she saw water pouring in and heard Mrs De Jesus calling for help.

She went outside and saw her trying to open her door.

"The water was as high as the window part of the door. It looked like she dropped the key but couldn't find it," said Ms Vingre.

She ran upstairs and looked for help from five men living on the top-floor flat.

Neighbour Ishfaq Ahmed waded into waist-high water outside the basement door and attempted to kick it in. In his deposition to the court, he said that he broke the window and water poured out.

He could hear Mrs De Jesus's screams but couldn't get in because of bars on the window.

Dublin Fire Brigade attended but could not access the flat. Holes were cut in the floor of the flat above to allow divers gain access but the water was now two to three inches from the ceiling in the basement.

Mrs De Jesus's body was not retrieved until the following morning when firefighters were able to pump water out of the flat. She was discovered in the bedroom. A post-mortem found that she had drowned.

Mrs De Jesus had been living in the basement apartment at Parnell Road for two months, landlord Andrew Donaghoe told the court. At one point she requested an extra lock on the door. He had advised against this because he was concerned that she could become trapped.

Trapped

Mr Donaghoe told the court that although there were bars on the windows, they could be removed if necessary.

On the morning following the incident, he found the key to the flat's front door hanging on the inside door frame.

Senior executive fire-prevention officer with Dublin Fire Brigade, James Briscoe, said the only exit from the flat was through the basement door. This was not unusual in apartments in the area, he said.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned a verdict of death by misadventure. He will write to Dublin City Council and the Fire Safety Authority to recommend a review of safety guidelines for basement flats.

Irish Independent

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