Friday 18 October 2019

Mother-of-three who died alongside her baby in tragic hospital accident expected to be buried with newborn son in her arms

A tragic accident at Cork University Hospital claimed the lives of Marie Downey (inset) and her newborn son Darragh
A tragic accident at Cork University Hospital claimed the lives of Marie Downey (inset) and her newborn son Darragh
Marie Downey

Ralph Riegel

TRAGIC mother-of-three Marie Downey (36) who died alongside her new born baby boy in a freak tragedy in a Cork maternity hospital is expected to be buried with her infant son cradled in her arms.

Locals in north Cork and south Limerick spoke of their utter devastation at the tragedy which claimed the lives of both the devoted young mother and her new born baby son, Darragh.

Mrs Downey was hailed as a wonderful mother and a valued work colleague, employed as a laboratory technician with pharmaceutical giants, Novartis, in Cork.

Cork Coroner Philip Comyn has now requested the services of a specialist neonatal pathologist to determine the cause of death for little Darragh who was found partially trapped underneath his unconscious mother in a single room at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) last Monday morning.

Marie Downey
Marie Downey

Darragh had been born a little more than 48 hours earlier.

It is believed his mother fell ill and tumbled unconscious out of her hospital bed onto the floor as she either attempted to raise the alarm or reach the bathroom.

She was apparently breast feeding little Darragh and the infant somehow got partially trapped underneath her on the floor of the single room.

Mrs Downey was discovered by shocked staff shortly before 8am last Monday - and was pronounced dead at the scene despite desperate efforts to revive her.

Her baby son was critically ill and lost his brave 36 hour battle for life on Tuesday evening.

A post mortem examination was carried out on Mrs Downey at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on Tuesday.

However, the results of specialist toxicology and neurological tests will now take some time to compile.

A precise cause of death for the young mother will depend on the results of those tests.

The funeral arrangements for Mrs Downey and little Darragh will be confirmed once the specialist post mortem examination on Darragh is concluded at CUH.

The infant's post mortem is scheduled to take place later today.

Mrs Downey lived with her husband, Kieran, and two sons, James and Sean, on the Cork-Limerick border at Knockanevin outside Kildorrery.

She is originally from Ballyagran in Co Limerick.

Just three weeks ago she was one of the proud parents at Kildorrery national school to welcome a visit by the Liam McCarthy Cup with members of Limerick's All-Ireland winning side.

Mrs Downey - a lifelong Limerick GAA fan - proudly helped her sons, James and Sean, hold Ireland's most famous hurling trophy aloft.

The young woman is survived by her husband and sons, her parents, Jim and Helen, and extended family.

Councillor Jerome Scanlan, a friend of Mrs Downey's Limerick family, said the entire community was shocked by what happened.

"They are a hugely respected family here and everyone in the community is heartbroken for them. Everyone is shocked by the scale of the tragedy."

Novartis issued a special statement last night saying that the thoughts and prayers of all Mrs Downey's colleagues are with her family.

"Marie Downey was a valued member of our team here at Novartis, Ringaskiddy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Marie's family and friends during this very difficult time. Marie will be fondly remembered here at Novartis Ringaskiddy," a spokesperson said.

In Kildorrery, not far from the Downey's home in Knockanevin, Parish Priest Fr Eamon Kelleher said everyone was shocked by the death of the mother and baby.

"It is an awful tragedy for the parish particularly for the people out in Knockanevin," he said.

"They are a very close community and take great care of each other and everyone feels the Downey tragedy and they are gathering here every morning to pray for the Downeys and to pray for Marie and the little boy Darragh.

"They are being surrounded by support but at the same time the whole community feels helpless.

"We pray that the Downey's will have the strength to get through this time but the community here will give them all the support.

"Her husband Kieran is from Knockanevin. Kieran's sister works in the local national school and their eldest boy is in that school too."

"It is a very close knit community and there is immense respect for the Downey's and I know the people there with great sensitivity will do everything they can.

"The thing about grief is that it is a very lonely place. Families to a very large extent have to carry that burden on their own. They are in the prayers of all here and I know that there is very practical support too from the local community out in Knockanevin.

"But the thing about grief is that there is so little you can do really. We are alone with it.

"People have a true Christian spirit and there is deep human affection. And that would be constant even when time goes by. There is terrible sadness that that cross is on the shoulders of Kieran and the Downey family."

The South South-West Hospital Group of the Health Service Executive (HSE) have described the incident as a tragic occurrence. Counselling and support services are now in place for the woman's family.

Health chiefs have ordered a full review of the precise circumstances of the tragedy at CUMH.

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