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Thursday 14 December 2017

Tragic toddler Lily stood up and called for mum moments after being struck by car

Ruth O'Toole mother of Baby Lily Rose O'Toole pictured at the Dublin City Coroners Court.
Ruth O'Toole mother of Baby Lily Rose O'Toole pictured at the Dublin City Coroners Court.

Gareth Naughton

THE heartbroken mother of a 22-month-old girl who was tragically killed when she was struck by a neighbour’s car told an inquest that she first realised something had happened when other children started screaming the toddler's name.

Ruth O’Toole had just finished a brief conversation through the passenger window of the small jeep outside her home at Ardmore Walk, Fortunestown in Tallaght, Dublin 24, and did not know that her daughter Lily O’Toole had gotten out of the front garden and was on the road.

Dublin Coroner's Court heard that prior to the accident Lily was last seen standing to the left of her mother near the wheel of the vehicle.

She suffered extensive internal abdominal injuries and died shortly after arriving at Tallaght Hospital on the evening of March 2 last year.

Ms O’Toole told the inquest that she had been having a cup of tea in the garden with her son’s father Niall Higgins and Lily was playing there. She saw her neighbour Esther Dillon on her way out of the cul-de-sac in the jeep and went to talk to her leaning in through the passenger door window. Mr Higgins said that he saw Lily standing beside her mother at the car and thought that Ms O’Toole knew the child was beside her.

The conversation between the two women lasted three to five minutes, Ms O’Toole estimated. After saying goodbye, she turned around and noticed that Lily wasn’t in the garden. She said she realised that something had happened when she heard some young children playing nearby screaming out “Lila”.

“I turned around and saw Lily at the back of the car. I saw Lily picking herself up and she walked two or three steps. I ran to her and picked her up. She called my name. I noticed a graze on her forehead. Her eyes rolled back. I fell to the ground holding her,” she said.

Ms Dillon told the court that when she went to drive off she saw nothing in front of her. She had moved a car length when she felt a "hump" and knew that she had hit something, she said. She got out of the car and saw Lily on the ground. The child was still breathing at this time, she said. Lily was rushed to hospital in Ms Dillon’s car, however, she was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Ms Dillon said that she initially thought that she may have hit a child's toy left on the road. She never saw Lily in front of the car, let alone leave the garden or passed Ms O'Toole, she told the court. She said that she remembered feeling the car going up and down and then people's reactions. "I just remember seeing people running. I didn't hear anything," she said.

Ms Dillon told the court how she watched Lily deteriorating as they made a frantic dash to Tallaght Hospital with her husband Michael Shelly driving the jeep.

“I got into the back of the car with Lily. Ruth was in the front of the car with Mick. I was holding Lily all the way to Tallaght Hospital. I was singing and talking to her, just trying to keep her awake.

She was still breathing but very poorly, her condition had deteriorated in the couple of minutes it took to get to the hospital. As soon as we got to the hospital I just ran in with her. I was told to go to Children’s A&E, they knew we were coming. They were waiting on us. I placed Lily on the bed and the doctors took over,” she said.

Ms O’Toole told the court that it took “five or six minutes” to get to the hospital. She wasn’t able to get out of the car quickly because a child lock was on the door and by the time she got into the hospital Lily was surrounded by doctors.

“I was holding her hand, talking to her, trying to wake her up,” she said.

A short time later, Ms O’Toole was brought into a room by a doctor who told her that Lily had passed away.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell told the O’Toole family that sometimes it was not possible to find the words to express condolences in the face of such “a profound tragedy”. “I am so sorry to hear about what happened to baby Lily,” he said.

Forensics collision investigator Garda Edward Davin found some light marking on the front of the car but could not definitively say if this had been caused in the accident or whether Lily had gone under a tyre.

A file was prepared for the director of public prosecutions who decided that no prosecution would follow.

The post-mortem found that Lily died as a result of extensive intra-abdominal bleeding due to internal injuries to the lower part of the abdomen sustained when she was struck. There was no evidence of a skull fracture or internal bleeding in the brain. Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that the pathologist did not identify any tyre track marks on the body.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and recommended that all vehicles of a certain height be fitted with mirrors to enable drivers see the front and sides of the vehicle.

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