Thursday 14 December 2017

Mum tells inquest of her battle to revive dying son

Elaine Keogh

A MOTHER and grandfather desperately tried to revive a toddler who fell into a water tank on a farm while playing and collecting eggs, an inquest into his death heard yesterday.

Patrick McDonnell, who was aged 20 months, had been playing on the family farm in Meath when he went missing.

After an increasingly frantic search, his grandfather, James, took the toddler's body from the water containment tank and -- along with the boy's mother, Caroline, -- tried to revive him, but he suffered a heart attack and died.

In emotional evidence at Drogheda Coroner's Court, Caroline McDonnell said that she had breakfast with Patrick and his grandparents on the morning of October 19 last. The youngster had gone with his granddad to collect eggs on the farm.

The farm, at Roughgrange in Donore, has a free-range egg production unit. Patrick played while his granddad had collected the eggs, and the youngster later played beside his mother as she was cleaning and sorting eggs.

She gave him eggs to throw at the cats, she said, and then she couldn't see him.

"I started to call out. I went down to the slurry pit but there was no sign," she said.

His mother checked at the house and at the trampoline but still could not find him.

James McDonnell joined her in the search, getting a stick and putting it in the water tank.

"The stick caught and Patrick came up," his mother said.

"We took Patrick out and tried to revive him."

The inquest heard how both tried CPR.

"I was trying (CPR) also and stuff was coming out of him," she said. "I carried Patrick back down to the house and the ambulance arrived shortly afterwards."

When the paramedics arrived the boy was in the kitchen and more efforts were made to revive him.

But he suffered a heart attack as he was being brought to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Navan.

The coroner, Ronan Maguire, recorded a verdict of accidental death.

"This is one of the most tragic accidents I have ever come across as coroner," he said.

"He was very young and was just being a kid. It is just an appalling tragedy.

"Any words I say are grossly inadequate to describe the loss the family has suffered. You have our heartfelt sympathy," he added. "It is beyond words what you are suffering."


The coroner had earlier heard the farm was leased to Jamie McDonnell, Patrick's father, by Mr McDonnell Snr, who continued to live on the farm with his wife. Patrick lived with his siblings and parents in another house nearby.

The boy's father said he was at a mart when he got a call at around 11.30 that morning to say Patrick had been in an accident. The court was told that although it was called the slurry pit by the family, it was a containment tank to catch dirty water from the yard, and was full of water.

It was built in 1976 and was six-feet long and 30-feet wide.

The coroner also heard that there was a wall around the tank but it was 20 inches lower in one particular part.

A post-mortem concluded Patrick had drowned and he was pronounced dead after all efforts by medical staff, including a consultant in emergency medicine, were unsuccessful at resuscitating him.

Irish Independent

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