A TODDLER has drowned in a small pool of water in a ghost estate, gardai have confirmed. The grim discovery was made after the two-and-a-half-year-old boy went missing from his home at Glenatore housing development in Coosan, just outside Athlone.
He was taken to Portiuncula Hospital in Balliansloe, where he was pronounced died.
Gardai are treating the incident as a tragic accident.
Inspectors from the Health and Safety Authority are also at the scene to examine the circumstances of the boy's death.
It is understood they are trying to establish if the unfinished housing estate was still a working building site.
The child's mother raised the alarm shortly after midday.
The youngster was found at the rear of the building site after wandering from the family home, which is understood to have a fence around it.
It is understood neighbours helped search for the toddler, who was discovered in a small pool of water adjacent to a drain area a short time later.
He has not yet been named.
Local councillor Kevin Moran said everyone in the area is devastated.
"It's a tragic accident," he said.
"My heart goes out to the family and the people were out searching for the child.
"It is devastating for every single person. Some people are crying just talking about it because they've lost loved ones themselves."
Glenatore is under development by Diskin Enterprises, which is run by local man Tony Diskin.
The developer is also involved with ambitious plans for a retail and office development in the Golden Island area of Athlone.
Described by estate agents as an exclusive development, Glenatore - which is close to Lough Ree - was granted planning permission for 66 terraced homes and apartments in 2005.
Just five properties were occupied and 13 were vacant, according to the 2011 national house survey. Others never started or were at various stages of construction when building works stopped.
A spokesman from Westmeath County Council said Glenatore is listed as a category 3 unfinished housing estate - meaning while there is no on-site work, a developer remains in place and is responsible for public health and safety on site.
He said a decision on whether to launch an investigation will be made after the facts of the case are known.
"This is very tragic and we would like to offer our sympathies to the family of the child concerned," he said.