A SIX-YEAR-OLD boy bravely tried to save his little friend when he fell into a fast-flowing river, an inquest heard.
James Casey-Butler died having suffered prolonged oxygen deprivation despite the desperate attempts of bystanders to revive him after he fell into the Owenacurra River near his home at Tir Cluain, Midleton, Co Cork, on March 23 last year.
He died the following day after being airlifted to Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin.
James was playing with his friends Leon Murray and Christopher Doyle when the incident happened.
Dublin Coroner’s Court heard they gained access to the riverbank through a gap in a fence made by people wanting to fish.
In her deposition read into the record, James’ mother Edel Casey said she had been watching the boys from the Murrays’ house nearby but when she went out to call them in she could not find them.
She immediately started searching for them and two boys told her they were down by the river. As she approached the gap in the fence Leon and Christopher were coming towards her.
“Leon told me James fell into the river. I was screaming,” she said. Ms Casey began frantically running along the riverbank searching for her son.
Neighbour Damien Garde spotted James tangled in the branches of a tree 400 to 500 metres from where he fell in. He jumped into the river and brought him to the riverbank, starting CPR immediately.
Paramedics were unable to revive James at the scene. He was transferred to Cork University Hospital where staff continued to work on him until spontaneous circulation returned 45 minutes after arrival.
He was transferred by helicopter to Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin, but died the next day.
Pathologist Dr Michael McDermott said James died from hypoxia - oxygen deprivation - on multiple organs and that this likely occurred when he was in the water.
Gda Sgt Anna Lane said she spoke with the two boys following James’ death.
Christopher told her that James and Leon had been standing on a tree branch over the water playing a game where they were throwing stones to see who could make the biggest splash when James slipped and fell into the river.
“Leon said he had tried to grab James’ arm when he fell into the water, but the branch James had been holding on to broke and he was swept down the river,” said Ms Casey.
The family told the coroner that people on the estate had repeatedly complained to the local authority about the gap in the fence which was being cut open by people going fishing.
The gap is still there, they said.
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that while this was an accident, the fact that the boys were able to access the riverbank through the gap was a “very serious” risk factor. He returned a verdict of death by misadventure.
He told the family he would establish who had responsibility for maintaining the fence and write to them to recommend that the gap be blocked.