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Monday 22 October 2018

Tragic teen's mum criticises failure of scouts to review supervision rules

Fourteen-year-old Aoife Winterlich, who suffered fatal injuries on trip
Fourteen-year-old Aoife Winterlich, who suffered fatal injuries on trip
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The mother of a teenage girl who died after being swept into the sea during a scouting trip has criticised the failure of Scouting Ireland to conduct an internal review following the tragedy.

Aoife Winterlich (14) was on a weekend scout trip on this day two years ago when she was knocked by a wave from rocks near Hook Head Lighthouse in Co Wexford. The teenager, from Walkinstown in Dublin, died five days later.

It emerged during her inquest that no review had been conducted by the scouting organisation after her death.

Her mother Anne Winterlich told the Irish Independent that she was at a loss to understand how an internal investigation had not been launched.

She is now seeking assurances that steps will be taken to ensure a similar tragedy does not occur in future. The mother of four said she had lost "a loving, kind and talented daughter".

"I think in an organisation where they are taking care of children, a review should automatically have been done," she said.

Anne Winterlich, mother of Aoife Winterlich
Anne Winterlich, mother of Aoife Winterlich

Ms Winterlich, who is taking a fatal-injuries claim against Scouting Ireland, also raised questions over the level of training provided to scout leaders.

"Children should always be supervised and kept safe during organised trips. We hope changes will be made to make sure this never happens again," she said.

The loss of Aoife was compounded by the death of her father Martin weeks later from cancer.

Read more: Heroes one and all!

Read more: Mum of Aoife (14) who died on scouting trip thanks rescue services, her friend 'who did everything possible to save her'  

Aoife, who had only recently joined the scouts, was part of a group of 14 children who were accompanied by two scout leaders on a trip to Tramore, Co Waterford, in December 2015.

On the way back to Dublin, it was decided to visit Hook Head.

The visit was not part of the original excursion plans, nor were parents notified about it prior to the outing.

The tragedy unfolded during a 20-minute period when the group was left unattended.

During the inquest, it emerged the scout leaders were in a restaurant when several of the children went down from the lighthouse to the rocks.

Four ended up being knocked into the water. A conflict of evidence arose over whether or not the children had been told to stay within the confines of the lighthouse grounds. While the scout leaders said the children were told to stay within the walls, one of the children said in evidence he could not recall any such instruction.

Scouting Ireland declined to respond to a number of queries posed by the Irish Independent.

It would not say whether a review had been initiated since the inquest in October, nor clarify what level of training was provided to the scout leaders on the excursion.

It also declined to say whether training for scout leaders had been modified since the tragedy.

In a statement, Scouting Ireland chief executive John Lawlor said: "Aoife Winterlich was a young venture scout who lost her life in tragic circumstances and our thoughts continue to be with Aoife's mother and family.

"It would be inappropriate for us to comment any further due to pending legal proceedings."

Irish Independent

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