The grieving parents of a schoolgirl who died after inhaling gas from a helium balloon have spoken of the “living nightmare” they are going through.
Karen McDowell described the family’s heartache after she found the lifeless body of her 13-year-old daughter Jordan at her home in Newtownabbey last Sunday afternoon. Jordan, a year nine pupil at Monkstown Community School, is thought to have died after inhaling helium from a balloon bought for her birthday.
Karen and her husband Gareth said they want to prevent other families from going through a similar experience, and have warned parents of the dangers of the gas.
“We didn't realise the dangers in it,” Mr McDowell said.
“We just don't want anyone else to go through this, it's been like a living nightmare. We have to keep it together for our other two, and we've had lots of support.”
He told the BBC that the family would treasure Jordan’s memory, adding: “She brought us joy for 13 short years.”
Mrs McDowell said she still can't believe her daughter is gone.
“I keep saying to people it's like she's gone on holiday, but she'll be coming back, but she won't, she'll never be back,” she said.
Jordan's grandfather Ronnie Hamilton said helium should be banned or restricted.
“I don't want anyone to go through what we've been through and it's about time legislation was brought in,” he said.
“What I would say to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles is give your children a hug and tell them how much you love them.
“Do not buy them helium, it is death, you are buying something so
dangerous. We didn't know the dangers — we do know now and it's devastating.”
He said the family hoped that lives could be saved by raising awareness of the dangers.
“Helium is marketed as an inert gas, which makes it sound like a ‘safe' substance. It's not and we don't want people to inhale it.
“Jordan was such a fun and loving girl, who always had a smile for you, and now she's gone and it just isn't worth it.”
More than 1,700 people have joined a Facebook tribute to Jordan since her death.
Special assemblies have been held at her school while pieces of writing and art have been collected from her friends.
The school’s acting principal Raymond Leeman said staff were helping pupils come to terms with the tragedy.
He described Jordan as “a great pupil” who loved school.