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Little boy died while watching cartoons after marble fireplace fell on top of him

By Olivia Kelleher

Published 23/10/2015

The scene where five year old boy Fionn Dawson died after a fireplace fell on him at Coolgreen, White's Cross, Cork.
The scene where five year old boy Fionn Dawson died after a fireplace fell on him at Coolgreen, White's Cross, Cork.

A five-year-old Irish boy who was watching cartoons at home died after a marble fireplace fell on top of him, Cork Coroners Court heard yesterday.

Fionn Dawson passed away on April 30, 2013 after a tragic accident at his home in Coolgreen, Glanmire, Co Cork.

Breda Connery, an aunt of the deceased, was minding Fionn and his two younger siblings on the afternoon he died. She collected Fionn from playschool.

He was watching television whilst Breda was in the kitchen making sandwiches. She heard a 'horrific noise', the inquest heard.

"I thought it was the bookcase. I saw the fireplace was on top of Fionn. I knew the mantle had hit his head. I tried to lift it off him. I was hysterical."

The father of the deceased Cormac Dawson said he and his wife Anita decided to change their fireplace in 2012.  They had moved in to the property in 2005 and a fireplace was already in the living room.

They ordered a new fire insert in late 2012 as they wanted one fitted for Christmas. They decided to order a double sided insert and kept the original surround.

Mr Dawson said the fireplace was fitted in three days. It was fitted by employees of Absolute Homes.

On the 6th of April 2013 Mr Dawson was cleaning out the fireplace when he noticed the mantle was a little loose. He contacted the owner of Absolute Homes Ltd Conor McNamara about his concerns.

"I felt it (the fireplace) give. I was concerned. I knew I wasn't dreaming about it. But I didn't get the sense it was about to fall. I called Conor. I can't remember the gravity I gave it. I told the kids to be careful. I thought there was give but it was stable."

One of Mr McNamara's employees contacted Mr Dawson.

An appointment was made for him to call out and look at the fireplace but he had to cancel at the last minute because another work matter came up.

The pair exchanged calls but unfortunately they kept missing each other.

Mr Dawson said he received a call from his wife on the 30th of April. He was up the country working when Anita called to say that the fireplace had fallen on their five year old son Fionn.

He knew his son had a head injury and rushed to Cork University Hospital. The child passed away before he reached CUH.

The two employees who fitted the fireplace flam said they were confident that had completed the work professionally and to the best of their ability.

Mr McNamara, owner of the firm, said that when Mr Dawson alerted him to concerns about the fire insert efforts were made to meet up to set up an appointment with him.

No prosecution was taken in the case after the installers were found to not be at fault.

Engineer and accident Investigator Kieran Spitere said the mantelpiece exerted strain causing the rest of the fireplace to be displaced.

It is his belief that the fixings on the fireplace originally fitted many years ago were not sufficient.

Mr Spitere said there is currently no British or Irish standards in relation to fitting fireplaces and that guidelines need to be put in place.

Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Fionn died from blunt force trauma to the head. She said this inflicted brain swelling, contusion and laceration which proved fatal.

Coroner Dr Margaret Bolster offered her sympathy to the relatives of the deceased.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded in the case. The jury recommended that the Minister for the Environment introduce regulations for the mechanical fixing of all stone components on fireplaces.

Speaking after the inquest Cormac Dawson said they were devastated at the loss of young Fionn.

"As a family we have suffered greatly. He was a wonderful son and brother and his absence is felt every day. "

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