'She was our little princess' - Young girl (5) died of crush injuries due to defective gate
A heavy wooden sliding gate was mechanically defective when it fell and crushed a five year old girl outside her home, an inquest heard.
Sienna Joyce died just weeks before her sixth birthday after the gate de-railed from its sliders and fell, trapping the child underneath.
“She was our little princess. She was such a girly girl, she loved to dress up, she loved her long curly hair. She was a little character, she could light up a room and everyone loved her,” the child’s father David Joyce Junior said, speaking after the inquest.
“She was my life, the air that I breathed. We are devastated to have lost her but nothing will bring her back,” he said.
Little Sienna was playing outside her home at the The Ward, Ashbourne, Co Meath on June 27 2016 when she came inside and spoke to her mother who was making sandwiches.
“She asked to use the bathroom, she was a very polite child like that,” her mother Maria Joyce said.
Her daughter took a sandwich back outside after using the bathroom. Mrs Joyce said she then heard ‘the loudest bang’ outside and saw her son trying to lift the gate.
“I ran and tried to lift it but I couldn’t. I screamed for help,” she said.
Her partner and his father were working down the yard when they heard her screams.
“It was about 6.20pm when I heard screams and I just knew something had happened to one of my children,” Mr Joyce Jnr said.
The gate was constructed of solid timber with a steel frame. It took a number of people to lift the gate in order to free the child.
“I knew things were bad but she was alive,” Mr Joyce said. An ambulance was called and he and the child’s grandfather drove to the White House pub on the old N2 to meet the ambulance. Little Sienna was rushed to Temple Street Children’s Hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as severe head injury due to being crushed by a falling gate.
Gardai investigated the incident and a file was submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions but no prosecution was directed. The court heard that maintenance work had been carried out on the gate two weeks previously and Mr Joyce was waiting for this work to be completed.
Consulting engineer Damien Power described the gate as a single leaf sliding gate with rollers mounted on a metal track.
Mr Power said there was no physical stop for the rollers present and therefore nothing to stop the gate rolling out of its tracks.
“The top rail should have been fitted with a fundamental physical stop, it could have been fitted between the gate and the pillar,” he said.
Mr Power said this was the second fatal incident he had investigated involving this type of sliding gate and said the gate presents a hazard unless a stopping mechanism is fitted.
Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a verdict of misadventure, noting ‘the risk that existed which sadly contributed to the events surrounding Sienna’s death.’
“It is something that is unimaginable, the loss of a beautiful young girl in these circumstances,” the coroner said.