Girl (8) dies while her friend (11) is in 'critical but stable' condition after farm accident
A FAMILY were keeping a vigil at the bedside of their daughter (11), at Cork University Hospital, after she was critically injured when a tractor front loader fell on top of her.
The small farming community of Newtownshandrum, Co Cork, has been left reeling from the tragedy in which another girl (8) lost her life after she was also crushed by the front loader.
The parents of the deceased girl (8), named locally as Paula Dinsberga, were told the awful news late last night after they arrived off a plane at Dublin Airport from a trip to Latvia.
The deceased, who is originally from Latvia but living in Limerick, had been staying with family friends on a farm in Ballinakill, Newtownshandrum.
Gardai said the front loader of the tractor fell down on top of the deceased, killing her instantly.
A post mortem was due to be conducted today at Cork University a Hospital by assistant state pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster.
A friend of the deceased, aged 11, who lives on the rented farm, was critically injured when she was also pinned under the front loader.
Gardai said the father of the injured girl, also from Latvia, was driving the tractor. Locals said the owner of the farm lives in New Zealand.
There was no one at the family home today, and the local girl's parents and siblings are believed to be keeping a vigil at her bedside at Cork University Hospital.
Gardai said the two girls ran in front of the tractor as it entered a yard causing the driver to break suddenly, apparently causing the front loader to fall forward crushing the girls.
The injured girl was airlifted from the scene by helicopter to Cork University Hospital, where she was in a critical condition.
Very Reverend Canon Michael Harrington, retired, was called out to the scene last evening.
He said he was met by one of the "blackest nights" he ever witnessed.
"There was a very great presence of the Gardai and the paramedics there, and I would say, their handling of the situation was exemplary. It was excellent in every possible way including their help in taking me out there," Fr Harrington said.
"There was a little girl and she was dead. I gave her the last rites in so far as I could."
"The injured girl was (still) there in the field. I carried out whatever services I could to be of consolation to her parents," Fr Harrington explained.
He added: "It is a terrible tragedy, of course for this farming community."
A Garda source said: "Basically what happened was the front loader of a tractor fell down on top of the two young girls. One of them was seriously injured and taken by helicopter to CUH, but the other girl was fatally injured, an eight-year old girl."
The horrific tragedy occurred at approximately 6.30pm just outside the village of Newtownshandrom in a townland called Ballinakill.
The Garda added: "It would appear that they ran in front of the tractor, so they were playing nearby, and (the driver) braked and the bucket fell off. It's his daughter that is seriously injured. She's eleven. He went to the hospital immediately with his daughter."
"It's a tragic accident from what we know. It will be investigated by the HSA (Health and Safety Authority). The deceased's family are living in Limerick City. There will be a (garda) file for the coroner. Obviously we will look into it but the HSA will also investigate it," the garda added.
Gardai and officials from the HSA were at the scene last night carrying out enquiries.
Neighbours and friends of both families were rallying around those caught up in the terrible tragedy.
A local man out walking near the scene today said: "The whole place is devastated. It's an awful tragedy. That's basically all I can say."
Locals said, last year fire crews were called out to the farm to deal with a gorse fire, which destroyed a large acreage of silage.
A neighbouring landowner added: "The family moved here about two or three years ago and are renting the place from a local man who is living in New Zealand. I can't imagine what they are going through now."