independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Girl (8) tried to save little brother (2) in fatal fall

Vakaris Martinaitis

A LITTLE girl made a desperate bid to save her two-year-old brother after he opened an upstairs bedroom window while playing and accidentally fell out.

Vakaris Martinaitis (2), right, later died from "devastating" brain injuries after he suffered a complex skull fracture when he fell and landed on a concrete path outside his Cork home on May 6.

The inquest jury has urged all families to check the safety of their windows and called for the immediate publication of an external audit into the National Ambulance Service's handling of the tragedy.

An ambulance sent to the Lithuanian toddler was stood down because HSE call handlers understood the child had only sustained a simple bump to his head.

A Cork coroner's inquest heard that Vakaris's sister, Agneta (8), was playing with Vakaris in the upstairs bedroom that lunchtime when she briefly left the room to collect a teddy.

Her father, Vidas, was downstairs and his wife Aukse was at work. When Agneta returned to the bedroom, Vakaris had opened the window.

"I tried to catch him but I didn't have time to catch him. I (ran downstairs) and told my dad what had happened," Agneta told specialist garda interviewers.

Garda Fergal Whelton said that there was no lock on the window. A spare bed was directly underneath the window, which Vakaris climbed up on.

HSE dispatcher Richard Walsh who handled the emergency call told the court that he did not believe the child's injuries were life-threatening. "I genuinely thought that the child had suffered a simple fall. My thought at that stage was that the child had a simple fall and had just bumped his head," Mr Walsh said.

A transcript of the 999 call made indicated that Mr Walsh queried whether Vakaris could have fallen from a height.

He was not told the child had fallen from a window.

Neighbour Kevin Hennessy, a former All-Ireland hurling star, told the hearing: "I said to the dispatcher we need an ambulance here . . . (but he said) at the moment I have nothing in the area to send you, do you understand."

A second HSE dispatcher, Tom Magee, had assigned the call to the Midleton-based ambulance which had just finished an assignment in Cork city and was returning to the east Cork town.

It could have been at the scene within 18 minutes.

TRANSPLANTS

Mr Hennessy later drove the screaming child and his distressed father to Cork University Hospital, where Vakaris died two days later from traumatic brain injuries.

Vakaris's parents said they were "devastated and broken-hearted" by the tragedy but took some comfort from the fact their son's organs were donated and as a result four children benefited from life-saving transplants.

"I loved my son very much. We had a great father and son relationship.

"Now I just have a lot of suffering and no life. I could not save my son.

"He was a beautiful little boy . . . he had a good heart," Mr Martinaitis said.

The jury ruled Vakaris's death was accidental.

Irish Independent

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