herald

Sunday 24 September 2017

'We started to panic' - dad of boy (5) who was missing for three hours

Richard Roche tries on a garda hat for size after being reunited with his family at a local station
Richard Roche tries on a garda hat for size after being reunited with his family at a local station

The father of a five-year-old boy who went missing during a family day out, prompting a massive garda search, has spoken of the "gut-wrenching" moment he realised his son was gone.

Aidan Roche, from Co Wexford, was in Dublin with his wife and young children when his son went missing at the People's Park in Dun Laoghaire on Sunday afternoon.

His son Richard disappeared from the play area and was nowhere to be seen for three hours.

A huge search was launched after the family reported him missing.

He was eventually found hiding in his mother's car by local woman Emer Fitzgerald.

Shaken

Both the gardai and members of the Irish Coast Guard were called to help trace the five-year-old.

Aidan told the Herald that he was still so shaken up about the incident that it took him three attempts to answer our call.

"He was in the play area with his older brothers and he just disappeared," said Aidan.

"My brother-in-law and my wife were taking turns watching him, and then one moment later he was gone.

"My mother-in-law turned around and said 'Richard is missing'.

"At first I didn't really believe it, we were helpless. He was gone an hour, and our stomachs just dropped. Then two hours and then three; we really started to panic.

"He told us after that he couldn't see anyone in the park so he left, and went out to the car park.

"At first he climbed and hid under my van, and then climbed into the window of my wife's car, which was a few cars down. The park is surrounded by a large six-foot fence, so we couldn't understand how he got out.

"I looked in the van, around my wife's car, under the car, but I never thought about checking inside the car. I just presumed it was locked."

The relieved father thanked everyone who helped him find his son, including the gardai and the coast guard.

"The guards were incredible, and I'd like to thank Emer, who found Richard. We are so glad he was found safe.

"No matter how much you watch your kids or how vigilant you are, you can just turn around and they're gone. It was gut-wrenching, but we can't describe how happy we are to have him home safe."

Emer said that her "motherly instincts" kicked in when she heard about Richard's disappearance.

Petrified

She said she drove around the area and spotted a small head popping out of the back of a parked car.

"He was petrified. He was bawling his eyes out crying," Emer told the Herald.

"All he wanted was his mummy and daddy. The rescue services and the public were brilliant. The relief was just amazing."

Richard was taken to the local garda station, where he was reunited with the rest of his family.

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