independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Little girl (8) tried desperately to save brother (2) after falling out window, inquest hears

Vakaris Martinaitis who died in May 2013 from injuries sustained in a fall at the family home in the Castleredmond estate, just outside Midleton, Co Cork.
Pic Provision
Vakaris Martinaitis (2)

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) 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 last.

His 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 cleaning their Castleredmond, Midleton home in preparation for Agneta's First Holy Communion the following weekend.

His wife Aukse was at work.

A Cork coroner's inquest heard that when Agneta returned to the bedroom Vakaris, who was in his pyjamas, was sitting on the interior window ledge and had opened the sash.

"He opened the window and he fell out," Agneta told specialist Garda interviewers.

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

Garda Fergal Whelton said that there was no lock on the window and the two foot sash had an unrestricted opening arc.

A spare bed was directly underneath the window which allowed Vakaris to climb up.

The inquest jury has now urged all families to review the safety of window opening mechanisms and called for the immediate publication of an external audit into the National Ambulance Service's (NAS) handling of the tragedy.

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

The HSE dispatcher who handled the emergency call made by former All-Ireland hurling star Kevin Hennessy and his daughter Caoimhe, neighbours of Vidas and his wife, Aukse, said he did not believe life-threatening injuries were involved.

"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," HSE official Richard 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.

But Mr Hennesy informed dispatchers that the child had suffered a nasty fall and was screaming in pain.

Mr Hennessy was concerned because he could see a swelling on the toddler's forehead.

He told dispatchers he had not witnessed the fall but had stopped his car to help the Lithuanian father who was screaming for help.

"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," Mr Hennessy said.

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.

But minutes later the ambulance was stood down because Vakaris' injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

Mr Hennessy later drove the screaming child and his distressed father to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Despite being initially conscious, Vakaris died two days later.

He suffered traumatic brain injuries and haemorrhage as a result of a complex fracture to the skull consistent with a fall from a height.

The toddler was the youngest child of Lithuanian nationals, Vidas and Aukse Martinaitis, who had moved to Ireland in 2004.

The couple 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 benefitted 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,” Vidas said.

Vidas and Aukse paid tribute to Mr Hennessy for the kindness he had shown them that day.

Ralph Riegel

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