Relief for tragic car-crash father after missing son found in forest
Published 14/07/2014 | 02:30
A FATHER who lost three children to a car crash spoke of his terror as his surviving son, an 18-month-old toddler, went missing in a forest for seven hours overnight.
Torben O'Shea (18 months), who is a nephew of chef Kevin Dundon, wandered off when picking berries with parents Maria and Brian on Saturday evening.
A police dog team and two helicopters with infrared cameras were scrambled for the overnight search in woodland near Maria's family home in northern Denmark.
Brian O'Shea told the Irish Independent yesterday of their relief at finding Torben alive and uninjured in the beech wood at 5am.
He said: "I lifted him up and felt his body heat. I knew then he was okay. He cried for five seconds and put his head on my chest. I knew I had him back."
Last summer the O'Sheas' three other children – Soren (11), Saoirse (9) and Connor (3) – lost their lives when a speeding driver crashed into their car near Maria's family home in Denmark. Maria and Torben survived the crash with minor injuries.
Speaking about his relief at finding Torben unhurt, Mr O'Shea, from Dalkey, said: "I asked his brothers and sister to help find him. They came through for us. We are just so glad to have him back."
But before that, the couple endured a wait of seven hours for news as rescue teams scoured the area for signs of the toddler.
"It was terrifying. The police scrambled a dog team and two helicopters with infrared cameras to find him. They threw everything they had into the search," Mr O'Shea said.
"We had friends over from Ireland and were out in the countryside on a dirt track picking berries at around 9.30pm when Torben got separated from us. It only took a split second.
"I left the others and went up a ridge to find raspberries. Maria thought I had taken Torben, but he must have come looking for me."
The parents began began a frantic search and then called the police, who scoured the area looking for the toddler.
"Torben was wearing only a T-shirt and dungarees. We were really afraid that the temperature would drop and he would be in serious trouble. There is also a stream nearby, and if he had fallen in, we would have lost him for ever."
The O'Sheas had taken their friends out to visit places where they used to bring their children picking berries.
"When we discovered Torben was missing we thought, 'how far can he go, he's only 80cm tall and just starting to walk'. We went up and down the road but there was no sign of him. We called out to him, but there was no reply.
"We phoned the police and they arrived half-an-hour later. They were fantastic, and told us that the infrared cameras could spot a mouse. Then night fell and we were asked to go home and wait.
"They left two liaison officers with us. Most of the police didn't know our history at the time. We told them, and they were very kind."
The couple faced a harrowing overnight wait for news. "I checked the forecast as I worried about the temperature getting too low. At 3am it hit 14 degrees.
First light was at 4am and I went out to help look for him. I went to a nearby farm and came back through a beech wood. I went up on high ground and looked around.
"I was so despondent. Naturally, last year kept coming back to me. As I was heading down from a ridge I spotted a little patch of blue.
"It was Torben in his dungarees. He was face-down in a foetal position."
The helicopters hadn't spotted the child through the trees. Brian raced over to his son, fearing the worst.
"His eyes were open – he was rigid and didn't reply when I called his name.
"I phoned the house and got him to his mum as quickly as I could. The police were brilliant and high-fived and hugged me as I came down the path with him."
Torben was recovering at his grandfather's home and is physically unscathed after his ordeal. It is almost a year to the day since he last cheated death in the same part of Denmark.
The O'Sheas have founded a charity in their children's name called The Three Musketeers Chidren's Fund.