A SEVEN-year-old boy swept away in a flooded river in front of his horrified mother has lost his battle for life.
Friends and family comforted Edel Casey as her only child, James Casey-Butler (7), died in a Dublin hospital after having been on a life support machine since being pulled from a Cork river on Saturday.
James was out playing with friends when he managed to climb through a hole in a security fence at 7pm that evening and on to the bank of the flooded Owenacurra River.
He lost his footing and fell headlong into the river which, due to torrential rainfall, was almost 1.7 metres (5ft) deep.
The alarm was raised by Oisin Shanahan (9), who had been out playing with James on the green of Tir Cluain estate. James's mother ran out to investigate and saw her son being swept away.
"She (Edel) went running toward the fence. She could see him in the river and she started screaming: 'He has fallen in.' You could hear her screams throughout the whole estate," neighbour Shirley Shanahan said.
Locals Roy Daly and Damian Garde were hailed as heroes for risking their own lives to save James.
Ms Casey, who had tried to call James in for his tea just minutes earlier, cried in despair as she saw her son's unconscious body being dragged from the Owenacurra.
"She kept screaming for someone to get a blanket because he was freezing. It was absolutely heartbreaking," Mrs Shanahan said.
Mr Daly said: "I stopped my car, jumped out and then heard someone shouting: 'We've found him, we've found him.' I ran over and jumped straight into the stream to help get him to the bank."
The little boy was found by local farmer Mr Garde, who passed him to Mr Daly so he could be dragged out of the water.
James received emergency treatment at the scene before he was rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH).
He was transferred at 10pm on Saturday by Coast Guard helicopter to Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin. But the little boy had to be taken by ambulance from CUH to Cork Airport for the Crumlin helicopter transfer.
The hospital, despite being the major trauma-referral hospital outside Dublin, has not had an operational helipad for over a decade.
A €1.5m plan to construct a helipad at the giant Cork hospital was earmarked for 2012/13 but was postponed due to funding problems.
The old helipad was closed in 2002 to allow for construction work at the CUH campus with a nearby rugby field in the suburb of Bishopstown occasionally used as an alternative landing pad to Cork Airport.
John Shanahan, whose home overlooks the Owenacurra, admitted that the entire community was deeply shocked.
Mr Shanahan, who is visually impaired and relies on a guide dog, said but for that, he, too, would have jumped into the stream to save the boy.
Neighbour Caroline Dennehy was distraught as she warned it was an accident waiting to happen beacuse of the holes in a fence that is meant to keep youngsters safely away from the Owenacurra.
Resident Tim Ageleola, whose child is friendly with James, said it was all the more upsetting given local fencing concerns.
"Everyone here has been complaining ... the hole in the fence was fixed twice last year but someone came along with a wire-cutter and opened it up again," he said.
Local councillor Pat Buckley (SF), a friend of the Casey family, is now demanding a safety investigation into the Owenacurra fence along both Tir Cluain and the Mill Road.
Mr Buckley has also demanded an explanation from the HSE on why the Midleton incident had to be dealt with by ambulances from Fermoy and Cork city.
The sprawling east Cork town no longer has a permanent ambulance and its first responder medical alert car was on a callout in Cork city when the Tir Cluain alarm was raised.
There is also confusion over who has responsibility for the fence, with some of the Tir Cluain estate owned by Cork Co Council, some in NAMA following the liquidation of its developers, Fleming Construction, and part of the river bank in private ownership.