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Saturday 21 October 2017

Aoife's mum thanks rescuers for 'precious time to say goodbye'

Teen scout Aoife Winterlich
Teen scout Aoife Winterlich

The mother of a 14-year-old girl who died in a scouting accident has paid tribute to the rescue services "who did everything possible" to save her.

In a moving statement at the end of an inquest into her daughter Aoife's death at Hook Head, Co Wexford, Anne Winterlich said her loss had left a huge void for the family.

She thanked the air accident crew whose actions gave the family "precious time" to say their goodbyes to Aoife.

"Our beautiful Aoife, so adorable and funny in nature. She had a kind disposition, so creative, a wonderful artist. We are left with such a huge void in our lives, we will love and miss her forever," she said.

Mrs Winterlich thanked Phillip Byrne, a friend and fellow scout who tried to rescue Aoife after she was swept out to sea.

"Myself and my family wish to sincerely thank the air accident crew for doing everything possible to save Aoife and Phillip," she said.

"It is because of these men and Phillip that we were given precious time to say goodbye to our beautiful daughter and sister.

"We will be forever grateful to Phillip for his bravery and for the love and friendship he showed to Aoife. To the other children present that day, we would like to thank you too."

The Waterford Coastguard helicopter arrived at Hook Head at 2.15pm on Sunday, December 6, 2014.

Unconscious

The crew winched both casualties to safety but Aoife, who remained unconscious, slipped from her harness and fell 40 feet into the sea.

She was winched back to safety within seconds and transferred to hospital.

At Dublin Coroner's Court, coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

She made a recommendation for a general review of supervision arrangements for children, particularly in relation to potentially hazardous activities.

Dr Cullinane also recommended that signage at Hook Head lighthouse should alert the public to the dangers of the area as illustrated by the circumstances of Aoife's death.

She commended the family's "very generous" decision to donate Aoife's organs as "a wonderful gift for a significant number of families".

The coroner also noted the loss of Aoife's father, Martin, in the weeks following Aoife's death.

"This has been a very difficult inquest to hear. I know Aoife was a cherished daughter and the family has suffered the loss of Aoife's father since," she said.

"I hope this process can assist you in coming to terms with your loss."

Mrs Winterlich said she hoped changes would be made to prevent similar tragic loss of life.

"Children should always be supervised and kept safe during organised trips," she said.

"We hope changes will be made to make sure this never happens again."

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