THE father of a child who almost drowned in a park pond while on an outing from a creche has criticised the gardai and Health Service Executive (HSE) for their handling of the case.
Sean Ross McGowan was found by a passing doctor in the pond after he had got out of his buggy and wandered away unnoticed from his group on August 21, 2007. He was 21 months old at the time.
Sean, now five, suffered massive brain damage as a result; he has cerebral palsy and was left blind, the court heard.
He suffers seizures and infections, is frequently admitted to hospital and needs 24-hour care.
Yesterday, he secured €650,000 in a High Court settlement. His father, John McGowan, told the court he was not satisfied that gardai investigated the case properly.
And, outside the court, Mr McGowan criticised the HSE for not offering an apology.
The accident happened while Sean was in the care of Miss Carr's Child Care Centre in Ranelagh, Dublin, which is part of an assisted housing association premises for lone parents.
The child -- suing through his mother, Rose Houlihan, of Camden Street, Dublin -- brought the action against Miss Carr's Home Housing Association Ltd and the HSE, claiming negligence and breach of duty.
Liability was admitted and the case was before Mr Justice Sean Ryan for assessment only. The judge agreed with the parents that an earlier settlement offer of €550,000 was insufficient.
Following talks, Mr Justice Ryan was told the matter had been settled for €650,000 plus costs. Earlier, counsel for the family Jack Fitzgerald told the court that at the time of the accident Ms Houlihan was living at the child-care centre.
Sean was left in the care of the creche minders and was taken on a group outing to Ranelagh Park.
In "extraordinary sad circumstances", the toddler was allowed to get out of his buggy, Mr Fitzgerald said.
He "vanished" for some minutes and the next thing he was discovered in the pond by a passing doctor who rescued him when almost on the point of drowning, the court heard.
The toddler was eventually resuscitated but suffered massive and permanent brain damage. Sean's injuries were severe and he has a very limited life expectancy.
He is under HSE care in the Sunshine Children's Home in Leopardstown, Dublin.
Mr Fitzgerald said the child's mother agreed that the Sunshine Home was the best place for him.
His parents, who are in their 20s, love him deeply and they hoped to be able to take him out for a few hours twice a week.
His mother believes he can vocalise, responds well to being cuddled and finds music soothing, Mr Fitzgerald added.
Ms Houlihan told the court she had disagreements with the doctors over whether Sean should be ventilated if he stops breathing in certain circumstances.
She wanted ventilation to be carried out as she wanted her son's life preserved.
A separate action taken by Ms Houlihan against Carr's Child Care Centre and the HSE for damages for post-traumatic stress, depressive disorder and nervous shock over the matter was also settled yesterday.
No details of this settlement were disclosed in court.