Belfast Telegraph

Child drowned in pond just minutes after disappearing

By Anna Maguire

A toddler fell into a garden pond and drowned less than five minutes after last being seen, an inquest has heard.

Emily McCaughey-Clarke, who was 18 months old, had disappeared only for a matter of minutes before her mother and grandmother were alerted on June 10 last year.

The little girl was visiting the home of a family friend in Ballyhalbert when she fell into the murky and deep pond at the back of a spacious garden.

The inquest at Belfast Coroner’s Court heard from consultant paediatrician Dr Sean McGovern that the child was in cardiac arrest when she was recovered from the pond by her mother, Kirsty. She died in hospital the following day.

Emily, from Steel Dickson Avenue in Portaferry, was with her mother and grandmother, Jo-Ellen Mercer, when they visited the house of Leonora Ginn on what was described as a lovely summer day.

Ms Ginn said she warned them a number of times to stay away from the pond in her garden.

The inquest heard how the guests enjoyed time relaxing in the garden before breaking for dinner.

It was shortly before 7.30pm when the family last saw Emily in the garden. Minutes later, Kirsty asked where her daughter was.

Ms Ginn recalled for the court how they all frantically searched the house, which Emily had been running into during the day.

She said: “Kirsty ... had run up the garden. She kept shouting: ‘She must have fallen into the pond’. Kirsty was on her hands and knees, hysterical.”

Ms Ginn recalled seeing the pink top the little girl was wearing as she searched the pond with a net. She had been in the water for approximately five minutes.

The inquest heard distressing details how the mother and grandmother frantically pumped Emily’s chest and carried out mouth-to-mouth as Ms Ginn shouted instructions from a paramedic on the phone.

However, doctors told the inquest that her prognosis was “hopeless ... from the outset”.

Emily's mother rushed out of yesterday’s inquest twice and sobbed throughout the evidence. She was inconsolable as proceedings drew to a close.

Coroner Jim Kitson told a group of around 10 relatives that no-one should leave with “a cloud of blame” hanging over them.

“It is very clear from the evidence you were regularly checking on the child,” he said.

Mr Kitson concluded that, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, Emily died from pneumonia and lack of oxygen to the brain, caused by drowning.

Belfast Telegraph


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