Monday 23 April 2018

Father tells of the 'gut-wrenching' moment son went missing from park

Richard Roche (5) with Emer Fitzgerald, the woman who found him in the back of his parents’ car
Richard Roche (5) with Emer Fitzgerald, the woman who found him in the back of his parents’ car

Ryan O'Rourke and Cillian Sherlock

The father of a five-year-old boy who went missing for three hours has spoken of the "gut-wrenching" moment when he could not find his son.

Aidan Roche, from Co Wexford, was in Dublin with his wife and young children when the nightmare occurred at the People's Park in Dún Laoghaire on Sunday afternoon.

His son Richard (5) disappeared from the play area in the popular park about 3pm.

Richard's disappearance sparked a massive search in the south Dublin town as people desperately tried to find the young boy.

Both local gardaí and members of the Coast Guard were drafted in to help trace Richard.

After three agonising hours the boy was eventually found in his mum's car by local woman Emer Fitzgerald, who had joined the search.

Richard had managed to climb into the vehicle through an open window and had been lying down in the back of the car.

Speaking about the ordeal yesterday, Mr Roche said he was still shaken up by the incident.

"He was in the play area with his older brothers and he just disappeared," he said.

"My brother-in-law and my wife were taking turns watching him, and then one moment he was gone. My mother-in-law turned around and said Richard is missing.

"At first I didn't really believe it, we were helpless. He was gone an hour, and our stomachs just dropped. Then two hours and then three, we really started to panic."

Mr Roche said when he looked for Richard he did not think to check inside his wife's locked car.

"He [Richard] told us after that he couldn't see anyone in the park so he left, and went out to the car park.

"At first he climbed and hid under my van, and then climbed into the window of my wife's car, which was a few cars down.

"The park was surrounded by a large six-foot fence, so we couldn't understand how he got out. I looked in the van, around my wife's car, under the car, but I never thought about checking inside the car. I just presumed it was locked," Mr Roche added.

The relieved father thanked everyone who helped him find his son. "The guards were incredible, and I'd like to thank Emer and Clare who were the ones who found Richard. We are so glad he was found safe.

"No matter how much you watch your kids or how vigilant you are, you can just turn around and they're gone.

"It was gut-wrenching but we can't describe how happy we are to have him home safe."

Emer Fitzgerald, who found Richard hiding in his mum's car, said her "motherly instincts" kicked in.

After hearing about the missing boy, Ms Fitzgerald drove around the area and spotted a small head popping out of the back of a parked car.

"It was mother's instinct. When you know, you know.

"He was petrified. He was bawling his eyes out crying. All he wanted was his mummy and daddy," she said.

With the help of a passer-by she helped Richard out of the car and got the attention of the gardaí

Irish Independent

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