Monday 26 August 2019

Foster mother tells of her horror after falling fireplace killed girl (4) in house

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

David Raleigh

A four-year-old girl suffered catastrophic head injuries and died after a fireplace fell on top of her, an inquest has heard.

Jodie Lawlor Tyrrell, of Knockbrack, Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, did not show a pulse or heartbeat when paramedics arrived and checked the little girl for life signs.

Limerick Coroner's Court was told the fatal accident occurred on October 21, 2017, at a house at Mountheaton, Roscrea, which the girl's foster mother, June Whelan, had bought and was renovating.

Ms Whelan was too distraught to give evidence, and her deposition was read into the record by Inspector Dermot O'Connor of Henry Street garda station.

Ms Whelan said she went to the house with Jodie and two other children aged five and seven, and a babysitter, to do some "interior painting" at the property.

The three children had been outside playing but returned inside after it began to rain.

"Jodie was in the kitchen, playing house, and [pretending] to make coffee. Jodie was in my view and then she left the room [to join the others]," said Ms Whelan.

"The three children were moving about the house...Then I heard a bang."

She said one of the boys came running out of the sitting room and said: "Jodie is dead."

"I saw Jodie on the ground. The fireplace was on the floor, and she was lying inside the arch of the fireplace on the ground.

"I put my hand under Jodie's head. There was a lot of blood."

Ms Whelan contacted emergency services who dispatched an ambulance to the house.

She said: "I saw Jodie move her right leg and I believed there was life in her.

"I picked her up and cuddled her close into me."

Paramedics travelling from Birr, Co Offaly, arrived at the house 17 minutes after getting the emergency call.

Ms Whelan said she accompanied Jodie in the ambulance to University Hospital Limerick. The little girl was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

"She was my little girl and I wanted to keep her warm," Ms Whelan said.

Paramedic Seamus Pike said he and his colleague, Stuart Frazer, "found the child lying on the floor, framed in the surround of a fireplace".

"There was a large amount of blood loss and severe trauma. The mother was attempting CPR when we arrived. There was no sign of life," he added.

Pathologist Dr Gabor Laskai performed a post-mortem and said Jodie died from a head injury that caused substantial bleeding. Coroner John McNamara recorded a verdict of accidental death.

He told a large gathering of Jodie's loved ones: "Jodie was much loved. It is very sad that such a young life was taken in such tragic circumstances. It was clearly a chance accident."

Addressing Ms Whelan, who wept throughout the hearing, he said: "There is nothing you could have done. There is no fault on your door or on anyone's door. Children play as they do, in an environment of a new house.

"It's impossible for a parent to watch a child at all times."

Irish Independent

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