Thursday 17 October 2019

'She was my gorgeous girl' - inquest hears harrowing evidence from mum of baby accidentally strangled by blind cord

  • Thirteen month old toddler Leah Troy was accidentally strangled after getting caught in a blind string
  • Safety-conscious family had carefully installed the blinds in their home
  • Coroner urges everyone to be aware of the potential dangers posed by such blinds
Alice O’Sullivan, mother of the late Leah Troy pictured at Cork Coroners Court.
Alice O’Sullivan, mother of the late Leah Troy pictured at Cork Coroners Court.

Ralph Riegel

A THIRTEEN month old toddler was accidentally strangled after getting caught in a blind string in the bedroom of her Cork home.

A Cork Coroner's inquest issued a special safety plea after hearing harrowing details of the death of little Leah Troy for all parents to be aware of the potential dangers posed by blinds, curtains, draw cords and support strings.

Coroner Philip Comyn heard that while the homemade blinds in the Delaney Park, Dublin Hill, Cork home of Leah's parents, Michael Troy (32) and Alice O'Sullivan (28), were fully equipped with a special safety cleat for the main draw cord, the Roman-style blinds also had support strings to the rear of the blinds.

It was one of these three support strings that little Leah accidentally got tangled in after being placed in a travel cot in her bedroom for a nap shortly before lunch on September 11, 2018.

Leah's heartbroken mother, Alice, wept as she recalled the tragic events of that morning to the inquest.

Her four year old son, Alex, was feeling unwell so she kept him home from school.

Michael Troy, father of the late Leah Troy pictured at Cork Coroners Court.
Michael Troy, father of the late Leah Troy pictured at Cork Coroners Court.

Both Alex and Leah were playing together at the family's new Delaney Park home and their mother then gave them some food.

She then brought Leah upstairs to her bedroom for a nap before going back downstairs with her son.

The toddler was carefully placed in a travel cot between her bed and the window.

"I went up to check on Leah," she sobbed.

"I knew when I went in (to the bedroom) there was something wrong. She was just staring out the window. She was almost in a kneeling position....almost standing. Her head was in a tilt."

The young mother was horrified to realise the Roman blind support string was tangled around her neck.

"I tried to snap it but I couldn't. I was screaming," she said.

Eventually, she managed to free the toddler from the string, brought her downstairs and began cardiac pulmonary resuscitation after alerting the emergency services.

Her distraught partner, Michael Troy, was contacted at work and he was advised to rush straight to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Tragically, despite desperate efforts to revive the toddler, she was later pronounced dead in CUH with her heartbroken family by her bedside.

"She was just my gorgeous baby girl - always up to mischief, curious, fun and beautiful."

The young woman's step-mother, Jude Hogan-O'Sullivan, had been asked by the couple to help make Roman blinds for their new home.

With the assistance of the couple and other family members, the blinds were installed at the family home.

All the blinds were carefully installed with special safety cleats for the main draw string.

The safety-conscious family ensured the metal cleat was installed quite high and well out of reach of the two children.

However, the blinds also had three other support cords to the rear of the blind as part of its general structure and it was one of these that the toddler somehow got tangled in.

Mrs Hogan-O'Sullivan said she feels terrible guilt over the tragic accident.

"I never thought that when the blind was closed she could get caught in the vertical support blind (cord).

"My world fell apart - if I hadn't made this blind, she would be alive. I feel very guilty," she sobbed.

"I know I have told them before but I want to say again that I am very sorry."

Mrs Hogan-O'Sullivan said Michael and Alice were fantastic parents, always checking on their children's welfare.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Leah died from cardiac arrest due to ligature strangulation.

Dr Bolster said that due to pressure on the Vagal Nerve, the toddler would have blacked out immediately.

"The little girl did not suffer," she said.

The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death and asked the media to highlight the incident to make other parents and families aware.

The coroner echoed that recommendation and urged everyone to be aware of the potential dangers posed by such blinds.

"This has been a very distressing inquest," he said.

"I can only begin to imagine the anguish the family are going through. This was a complete accident. There is very little solace I can offer but Dr Bolster's evidence is that Leah would have blacked out immediately and would not have suffered and would have been in a coma.

"I would ask the media present here to highlight the dangers with blinds and also the National Standards Authority of Ireland who have very good (safety) information dealing with blinds."

Mr Comyn said such information can be accessed from www.nsai.ie.

Alice O'Sullivan used her birthday this month to issue a special social media appeal for people to support FirstLight, a support service for bereaved parents and families.

"For my birthday this year I am asking for donations to FirstLight - I have chosen this non-profit because their mission means a lot to me."

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