Thursday 24 May 2018

Dad 'staggering' before drowning with son (3) in ditch, inquest is told

Tributes left at the scene
Tributes left at the scene

A father and his three-year-old son drowned in a ditch while taking a short-cut into an estate, an inquest heard.

Sean Sweeney (36) and his son, Tyler Joyce, were found dead at an unauthorised access point into Ashington Park in Dublin 7 on March 27 last year.

The last footage of the pair captured on CCTV the previous night showed Mr Sweeney staggering and stumbling with Tyler on his shoulders.


Stephen Hughes, who was among the last to see the father and son alive outside a chipper on Royal Canal Park at 9pm, said: "I noticed a man walking up the road, stumbling with a kid on his shoulders asleep.

"He was definitely drunk at least, stumbling over his own feet. He could barely walk."

Mr Hughes then received a text from his friend, Ciara Ronan, waiting in a car outside.

It read: "Oh God, give him a lift please, he's almost after going on his face with the child. I feel sick."

Jason Quinn, who was then 15, was using the shortcut to get home at around 9.45pm when he heard the sound of a child's scream.

"I heard the noises of branches again and then the scream of a child," he said.

When he heard a loud voice he feared it was a drug user and he ran all the way home. He told his father what he had heard.

Two bodies were found the next day by a passer-by at 3pm.

"I saw a pair of shoes. I took a second look and saw a body face down in a ditch. There was a gold football beside the feet," said Cian Finn.

Insp Thomas Lynch, of Coolock Garda Station, said Mr Sweeney and his son were captured on CCTV on Royal Canal Park at 9.03pm.

"Mr Sweeney was walking and Tyler was on his shoulders. He was staggering and stumbling along," said Insp Lynch.

Mr Sweeney had crossed the ninth lock on the Royal Canal, went through a fence and crossed over a wall into Ashington Park using a mud-path track.

The track, next to a deep trench, is commonly used in the area as a shortcut.

"The trench is a 10-foot drop with very steep banks. The water was 10 to 12 inches deep in places," Insp Lynch said.

Members of Dublin Fire Brigade retrieved the bodies.

Asked if it would be difficult to get out of the ditch if someone fell in, DFB officer Derek Cheevers said it would.

Tyler's mother Pamela Joyce formally identified her son.

The cause of death in both cases was drowning. Toxicology results showed evidence of methadone, the anti- depressant mirtazepine and the sleeping tablet zopiclone in Mr Sweeney's system.

Irish Rail solicitor Sean Coleman said there were plans for a footbridge and unmanned station at the spot where the two drowned. He said funding had been allocated. No time frame was given.


There are "No Trespass" signs to deter people from using the shortcut, but it remains a problem, the inquest heard.

The track saves at least half-an-hour on journeys between Ashington and Finglas, Dublin Coroner's Court heard.

Speaking after the inquest, Ms Joyce said she knew of a third death in the location.

"A woman approached me at Tyler's funeral and told me she had lost her six-year-old son there. It's dangerous," she said.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a verdict of accidental death for Tyler and a verdict of death by misadventure for his father.

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