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Saturday 21 September 2019

Girl chokes to death on balloon at birthday party

Medics unable to save tragic 10-year-old

Brendan McDaid and Will Ellison

A 10-year-old girl died in a freak accident on Saturday when a balloon she was blowing up at a birthday party became lodged in her throat.

Classmates of Clarice Harron watched in horror as the young girl began to choke during a party being held to mark the birthday of one of her friends.

Clarice, whose 11th birthday would have taken place yesterday, was trying to blow up the balloon when it somehow got sucked into her throat.

A local doctor was called to the scene as desperate attempts were made to resuscitate the pupil from Castlederg, Co Tyrone. The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service last night confirmed they received a call to attend at 4.18pm and were at the scene 11 minutes later.

Paramedics and the doctor spent a further 20 minutes working on Clarice before she was rushed to Derry's Altnagelvin Hospital. Resuscitation efforts continued there until she was pronounced dead at 5.45pm.

Clarice, from Glenview in Killen just outside Castlederg, was a pupil from Edwards Primary School. Close family friend, UUP councillor Derek Hussey, said her parents, Gerard and Davina, and three older siblings were distraught by what had happened.

He said: "I was up with the family and today would have been her birthday and that has added to their pain and grief. They are completely distraught. This was a horrendous tragedy. Clarice's two brothers and sister are also devastated. She was the youngest of the family.


"Clarice would have played with my own nine-year-old daughter and she was in my nephew's class at school."

Reverend Alan Peek, rector of Derg Parish Church, said: "The sudden and tragic death of Clarice is a devastating blow to her family and our first priority is to care for and to support them in their grief.

"But Clarice's untimely death is also a shocking blow to our wider community here in Castlederg -- not least for her fellow pupils along with staff, parents and governors at Edwards Primary School, and also her church family here in Derg Parish."

Reverend Peek described Clarice as a "bubbly, happy 10- year-old girl, with an infectious smile and a zest for life".

"Several of her classmates today said that Clarice definitely had 'the X Factor'.

"We are praying for God's loving comfort for mum and dad and siblings Leanda, Gary and Alan. Castlederg has a broken heart today."

Fr Colm O'Doherty from St Patrick's Church described Clarice's death as "heartbreaking". He said: "It is terrible, an awful situation, dreadful, a complete freak accident and that is all we can describe it as. It must be a terrible time for her parents. I am sure they are devastated. Words just cannot describe the tremendous sadness at what has happened.

"It should have been a joyous occasion, a birthday, but it has ended in heartbreak."

There was no one at Spamount Community Hall to comment. Clarice Harron's funeral will take place at St John's Church of Ireland Parish Church, Castlederg, tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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