Thursday 14 December 2017

Boy tried to rescue pal from den blaze, court told

Witness Daryl Hall
Witness Daryl Hall

Aoife Nic Ardghail and Declan Brennan

The jury in a manslaughter trial has heard how a boy who escaped a fire at a makeshift den tried to rescue his friend.

Daryl Hall, now aged 26, said he remembers the day of the fatal fire 13 years ago as if it was yesterday.

Dermot Griffin (54), of Ballyfermot Road, Ballyfermot, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the manslaughter of 12-year-old Stephen Hughes at Rossfield Avenue, Tallaght, on September 1, 2001.

Mr Hall told Mary Rose Gearty, prosecuting, that he was 14 at the time and had begun building a makeshift den between some houses on Rossfield Avenue.

He said that all the children from the estate became involved and the den was made from wooden pallets, plywood sheets, old doors and carpets.

"We made it into a little home. I could draw you a picture of it now," he said.

He told the court that on the night of the fire he, Stephen and other children had met up at the hut. He said it was after dark but they lit candles and had a torch.

By 2am Stephen and the witness were the only ones left in the hut, where they fell asleep.

He said he was woken by screams. "I heard screaming and hands pushing on my back. I remember hearing 'go go', and 'aagh'."

Mr Hall said he could see nothing except smoke. He said he pushed aside a pallet to get outside.

"I thought he was behind me. When I got on the wall, standing on the wall, I jumped back down. I tried to lift up the door, I heard him coughing," he said.

He told the court he was unable to lift the hut open again and he got back up on the wall and started screaming for help.

He said that a number of people came over, including Mr Griffin.

The witness said the accused asked: "Was there someone in there?" He then put his hands on his head.

Mr Hall said Stephen was a smoker but he didn't think he had smoked inside the den.

A paramedic told Ms Gearty that the fire took about 10 to 15 minutes to extinguish. James O'Brien said he approached the burnt-out den when it was safe and saw the "little" body towards the back.

He said Daryl Hall was in shock and blackened about the face when he treated him.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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