A father and his three year old son drowned after becoming trapped in a ditch while using a short-cut into an estate, an inquest heard, writes Louise Roseingrave.
Sean Sweeney (36) and his son Tyler Joyce (3) were found dead in ten inches of water at an unauthorised access point into Ashington Park in Dublin 7 on Easter Sunday, March 27 2016.
The last footage of the pair captured on CCTV the previous night showed Mr Sweeney staggering and stumbling with Tyler asleep on his shoulders.
Witness Stephen Hughes was among the last to see the father and son alive outside a chipper on Royal Canal Park at 9pm.
“I noticed a man walking up the road, stumbling with a kid on his shoulders asleep. He was definitely drunk at least, stumbling over his own feet. He barely walk. The kid was asleep 100 per cent,” he said.
He then received a text from his friend Ciara Ronan, waiting in the car outside.
“Oh God give him a lift please he’s almost after going on his face with the child. I feel sick.”
Witness Jason Quinn (then 15) was using the short-cut to get home at around 9.45pm on March 26 when he heard the sound of a child’s scream. It was 'pitch dark'.
“I heard the noises of branches again and then the scream of a child. I am sure it was a child. It was not far from where I stopped,” he said.
When he heard a loud voice he feared it was a drug user and he ran all the way home. He told his father what he had heard.
Two bodies were found the following day by a passer-by at 3pm.
“I saw a pair of shoes. I took a second look and saw a body face down in a ditch. There was a gold football beside the feet,” Cian Finn said.
Inspector Thomas Lynch of Coolock Garda Station said Mr Sweeney and his son were captured on CCTV on Royal Canal Park at 9.03pm.
“Mr Sweeney was walking and little Tyler was up on his shoulders. He was staggering and stumbling along,” Insp Lynch said.
Mr Sweeney had crossed the 9th lock on the Royal Canal, went through a fence and crossed over a wall into Ashington Park using an mud-path track. The track, next to a deep trench, is commonly used in the area as a short-cut.
“The trench is a ten foot drop with very steep banks. The water was ten to 12 inches deep in places,” Insp Lynch said. Members of Dublin Fire Brigade used an extension ladder, ropes and a pulley system to retrieve the bodies from the ditch. Asked if it would be difficult to get out of the ditch if someone fell in, DFB officer Derek Cheevers said he imagined it would be. Tyler's mother Pamela Joyce formally identified her son.
The cause of death in both cases was drowning. Toxicology results showed evidence of methadone, the anti-depressant mirtazepine and the sleeping tablet zopiclone in Mr Sweeney's system.
Solicitor for Irish Rail Sean Coleman said there was plans for a footbridge and unmanned station at the spot where the two tragically drowned. He said funding for this has been allocated. No time frame was given. There are 'No Tresspass' signs to deter people from using the short-cut but it remains an ongoing problem, the inquest heard.
The track saves at least half an hour on journeys between Ashington and Finglas, Dublin Coroner's Court heard.
Speaking after the inquest, Pamela Joyce said she was made aware of a third death in the same location following the death of her son.
"A woman approached me at Tyler's funeral and told me she had lost her six year old son there. It's really dangerous," she said.
Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a verdict of accidental death for Tyler Joyce and a verdict of death by misadventure for his father.