Portadown family's anguish and pain since death of beloved Bryan (2) killed in blind cord accident
The distraught parents of a toddler accidentally strangled by a window blind cord have said they hope no other family faces a similar tragedy.
Bryan Henrique Saba died after his neck became caught in the cord of a blind in the living room of his home in Groban Street, Portadown.
There were warnings on blinds in the upstairs part of the house, but they were written in English, which the family could not speak.
The two-year-old, who was born in Verona, Italy, had just moved to Northern Ireland with his father, Feliciano, an excavation engineer and now production line assistant at Moy Park, two weeks prior to the incident on September 11 last year.
His mother, Maria Jose, who was working as a hydraulic engineer in Italy, was due to move here to be with her family once her contract finished.
Mr and Mrs Saba, devout Christians who originally come from Guinea-Bissau in west Africa, lived in Italy for 20 years.
They both attended the inquest at Laganside Court yesterday, each with a translator who spoke Portuguese.
They urged the coroner to do something that would improve the safety of such blinds, which are in thousands of homes and public buildings.
They also told how they were further traumatised to find the same type of blind that killed their son at the hospital he was taken to after the accident.
"I want to thank the will of everybody here, and I hope that as a result some goodwill come out of it, that it will give better security to other children," Mrs Saba said.
"It is difficult for me to hear and to speak about what has happened, but I prefer to put my hand on this task so that other families will not suffer as we have."
The court heard that Bryan, who was just a few weeks off his third birthday when he died, was living with his father and four of his six siblings at the time of the tragedy.
The little boy, described as a typical toddler "who was fascinated by everyday things and who loved adventure", was being looked after by sister Edyneusa (16), who was washing dishes in the kitchen when the tot wandered into the living room.
Edyneusa, who still struggles to think about the accident, found her brother caught in the cord seconds later.
It is believed that the toddler climbed onto the settee and put his head through the loop.
Older brother Sindatche (20), who was in bed after a nightshift at work, was woken and ran to his aunt's place of work 300 yards away because neither he nor Edyneusa spoke enough English to call 999.
Attempts were made by Sindatche to stop passers-by, and he was seen frantically gesturing for a phone, but he could not make himself understood. This prompted Adam King (25), a graphic designer who was eating lunch in his car nearby, to get out and offer help.
Approaching the home, he saw a hysterical Edyneusa screaming, and on entering he saw the baby lying on the floor.
Mr King called an ambulance before attempting mouth-to-mouth in a bid to restart the little boy's heart.
His actions were commended by Coroner Joe McCrisken, who described his attempts to save the toddler as "selfless and an example to the community".
Paramedics arrived soon after and moved Bryan, who was unresponsive, to Craigavon Hospital.
He was later transferred to the intensive care unit of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast but died on September 26 from brain damage as a result of a lack of oxygen reaching his brain, and pneumonia.
A pathologist's report also recorded microscopic changes in his lungs, which looked like tuberculosis, but which was not a factor in the boy's death.
Bryan's parents gave their permission for organ donation, a gesture described by Coroner McCrisken as "brave and selfless, given the family's unimaginable suffering," and as something that gave a range of children "the gift of life after this terrible tragedy".
Speaking through a translator, the toddler's mother thanked Mr King, who she had not met until yesterday, for his efforts to save her son's life.
Mr Saba added: "Since Bryan's death, we have been existing one day to the next, surviving on the strength God has given to us to sustain us and our children. Not a day passes without us suffering continuous anguish."
Coroner McCrisken noted that Bryan was the third child in Northern Ireland to die as a result of a blind cord strangulation and one of 26 in the UK, adding that such unnecessary deaths should be "never events".
"As Coroner I do not want to hear another inquest into the death of a child as a result of strangulation from a blind cord," he said.
"I certainly do not want to see another family endure the heartaches or grief that this family has endured."
He urged anyone who looks after children to ensure any blinds in their house have the modern safety mechanism whereby the cord snaps when weight is placed on it.
He also warned that a child could be strangled by a cord in a matter of seconds.
Coroner McCrisken said that Bryan had died in a tragic accident and indicated he would be writing to the new Health Minister to ensure the issue was raised at the highest levels of government.
Child-proof safety devices readily available for a few pounds
A number of blind safety devices are on offer in the marketplace, most costing only a few pounds.
They vary from plastic cleats to tie up the blind cords out of the reach of little hands to more complex inventions.
One other adaption are plastic bead chain connectors that are designed to shear off whenever undue weight is put on them. Others are boxes which fit to the wall and the cord is wound up inside them when not in use and have a child-proof cover to keep the cord out of reach.
Another idea is to fit cord or chain tensioners to the wall so the cord is kept flush and the ends are covered inside a box.
There are also clips and locks which can be used to fasten the cords to the wall.
A reel-type design can also be used to shorten the cords to keep them up high and out of the reach of children.
None of these safety devices are expensive so are within the reach of any budget.