A SIX year old Listowel boy died after suffering horrific head injuries in a freak accident where he fell through a hatch for a folding attic stairs.
Sean Dunne (6) had only gone into the attic of his home in Kenny Heights, Listowel after becoming curious about the work of two construction contractors who were undertaking an attic conversion for his parents, Gerry and Patricia.
A Cork Coroner's Court inquest heard that Sean had been told by the two workmen he shouldn't be in the attic and that he should go back downstairs. Just minutes later his mother heard a loud bang from the hallway and was horrified to realise it was her son who had just fallen through the attic stairs hatch.
"All I can remember is that I heard a really loud bang from the corridor," she said. "I could see the attic door was open and the [stairs] was open half-way. Sean was lying on the ground. He tried to let out a few yelps and screams but he could not."
The accident happened shortly after 3pm on June 1, 2011 after Mrs Dunne had collected her three children from school and brought them back to her Listowel home.
Two workmen, Aidan Fitzgerald and Tony Daly, were working on an attic conversion which they accessed via a work ladder. For safety reasons, the men had placed a piece of mortarboard and a plank over the hatch of an attic folding stairs which was not being used.
Both men said they regarded the hatch as a hazard because it was not designed to take any weight from above. The folding attic stairs was of an older design with a latch that could not prevent its opening if any weight was placed on it from above. Sean was apparently curious about the ongoing work – and both workmen said they were surprised to see him in the attic. Both told him to go downstairs.
"I heard a scream from downstairs. I saw Patricia and the two children [Mickey and Ciara] below. Sean was on the ground," Mr Fitzgerald said.
Sean was rushed to Kerry General Hospital in Tralee before being transferred two hours later to Cork University Hospital. Surgeons were unable to help the little boy and Sean died 17 days later on June 18 without having regained consciousness.
Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Sean had suffered a serious skull fracture with associated bleeding to the brain. The injuries were consistent with a fall from a height.
Sean's parents had only relocated to Listowel following the decentralisation of the Revenue Commissioners offices.
The Health & Safety Authority (HSA) conducted a probe into the matter but no further action was directed. A verdict of accidental death was returned as Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane described it as a tragic case.