Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland mum rescued after sinking at baby’s flooded grave

By Angela Rainey

A council has apologised to a Co Down mother of three who had to be rescued after she got stuck in mud at her baby son's flooded grave.

Michelle Marshall was visiting her son Bailey's plot in Ballyvester Cemetery, Donaghadee, to mark what would have been his 12th birthday on New Year's Eve.

Michelle Marshall got trapped in mud and sand while visiting her son’s grave in Ballyvester Cemetery, Donaghadee, on New Year’s Eve
Michelle Marshall got trapped in mud and sand while visiting her son’s grave in Ballyvester Cemetery, Donaghadee, on New Year’s Eve
Michelle Marshall got trapped in mud and sand while visiting her son’s grave in Ballyvester Cemetery, Donaghadee, on New Year’s Eve
Michelle Marshall got trapped in mud and sand while visiting her son’s grave in Ballyvester Cemetery, Donaghadee, on New Year’s Eve

But the waterlogged conditions caused her to sink knee-deep in mud.

The mum said the earth was so sodden that when a stranger pulled her out, her footwear dislodged and her shoes are now buried in the grave.

Ms Marshall said she had previously complained about the lack of drainage and was told by Ards and North Down Borough Council that the system was installed 18 months ago.

She also said that the saturation is preventing her from tending the grave of Bailey, who died in 2005 at just 33 days old after being born 14 weeks early.

Venting her anger online, Ms Marshall said: "I am more angry right now than I've ever been.

"It is my son's 12th birthday today and I went to his grave in Ballyvester Cemetery with his flowers and balloons and ended up being buried in it nearly up to my knees.

"I had to be pulled out by my sister and another man and don't even have shoes anymore. They are buried with my son!

"According to our council this only happens when there extreme weather conditions.

"The council said they put in drainage in July, 18 months ago.

"You can't imagine what it feels like to go to your baby son's grave to be faced with this on his birthday. I am completely broken hearted."

Representatives from Ards and North Down Borough Council have apologised and plan to meet with Ms Marshall.

Spokesperson Laura Johnston said: "Ards and North Down Borough Council apologises for the distress caused to Michelle Marshall by ground conditions experienced on visits to Ballyvester Cemetery over the Christmas and New Year period.

"The council appreciates how distressing the situation is for Michelle and her family and recognise the need to provide a solution. The council's parks and cemeteries manager spoke with Michelle today (Tuesday, January 2) at Ballyvester Cemetery and has offered an apology and appropriate solution. Areas of Ballyvester Cemetery experience groundwater problems during periods of high rainfall. After inspection of the cemetery today it is evident, due to recent heavy and sustained rainfall, that there is a significant amount of standing groundwater which has impacted accessibility to a small number of graves.

"The issue of poor ground conditions has been impacted further by the opening and subsequent burial at an adjacent grave plot over the Christmas period," she said.

Temporary measures have been installed to allow loved ones whose relatives are buried in the affected graves to access them.

Ms Johnston added: "The council will make these graves accessible in the short term by installing temporary ground protection tomorrow (Wednesday, January 3). In order to generally improve drainage at the cemetery it is also proposed that new additional drains are installed during spring/summer 2018 when ground conditions permit."

Ms Marshall was also to meet mayor Robert Adair yesterday to receive an apology and to help recommend a solution.

Belfast Telegraph

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