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Sunday 19 November 2017

Teen killed in sledding accident planned to leave slope

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A GROUP of teenagers invo-lved in a horrific sledding accident in which a 15-year-old girl was killed had planned to leave the snow-covered slopes after a few final descents.

Horrified parents and young children watched helplessly as the homemade sled carrying Aoife Downey (15) and three friends sped out of control and ploughed head-on into a large tree in Frankfield, Cork, at 2.30pm on Saturday.

A second 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy were being treated in Cork University Hospital (CUH) last night for multiple injuries sustained in the tragic accident.

The boy's brother had managed to roll off the speeding sled just seconds before the impact.

The injured girl -- who was Aoife's best friend and team-mate with Douglas Camogie Club -- sustained a fractured pelvis when she was catapulted out of the sled.

The 16-year-old boy is being treated for a badly fractured leg.

Aoife was the eldest daughter of Sean and Siobhan Downey, who have two younger daughters, Aideen and Caoimhe.

She was a student at Christ the King Secondary School in Cork and was a hugely talented camogie player, winning awards at both club and school level.

The chairman of Douglas Camogie Club, Joe Long, said everyone is devastated by the tragedy.

"Aoife was a fabulous camogie player and a talented footballer. She was such a lovely child. She won county medals at U-12 and U-14 level and was a member of the Douglas team who had the All-Ireland Feile win in 2009," he said.

"She was playing since she was seven. She played in the U-16 county final just two weeks ago."

Former Douglas camogie coach, Philip Kavanagh, said he has known Aoife and her best friend since they were both eight.

"The two girls were inseparable. They both had a tremendous love for sport and they were extremely talented. They were just full of life and fun. They were always together and were two little devils with so much spirit and joy in them.

"My (own) daughter Emma plays camogie with them and when I heard the news I was devastated. The whole club is devastated and this tragedy has left everyone reeling."

Aoife was also a keen music fan and social networking sites were filled with tributes to her yesterday.

The sled at the centre of the tragic accident was made from a large sign with hand-grips on the side. The accident occurred near Frankfield Golf Club in a southside suburb of Cork city. The teens were playing on a steep snow-covered hillside between local estates and the club.

Four teens were on the sled and one boy managed to jump off as the sled reached the bottom of the hill. The other boy and two girls were unable to jump off and ploughed into one of the large trees at the bottom of the slope.


Aoife suffered horrific injuries in the impact as she was catapulted head-first into the tree. Emergency services were notified and the unconscious girl and two injured teens were rushed to CUH by ambulance.

Surgeons fought to assist Aoife but were unable to stabilise her condition. She died as her family maintained a vigil by her bedside shortly before 3.30pm.

A full investigation by Togher gardai is under way but it is being treated as a freak accident.

The owner of the golf club said everyone is deeply shocked by what happened. "Our sympathies and thoughts are with the girl's family at this time," Colman Ryan told the Irish Independent.

Togher Supt Charlie Barry said gardai were shocked by the girl's death.

"This is a very tragic accident. The weather we are experiencing is highly unusual for Cork and young people are enjoying it," he said.

"But I would appeal to them and their parents to be aware of the dangers and homemade sleighs offer no protection."

Irish Independent

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