'I thought it was safe': Blind cord warning after toddler's tragic death

'I thought it was safe': Blind cord warning after toddler's tragic death
Alice O’Sullivan, mother of the late Leah Troy pictured at Cork Coroners Court.

A coroner has issued a fresh warning about the dangers of window blind cords after hearing harrowing details about the death of a toddler in a freak accident.

Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn has also urged parents to consult the National Standards Authority of Ireland website for guidelines on blind cord safety after the inquest this morning in relation to the death of little Leah Troy, aged 13-months, at the family's new home at Delaney Park in Dublin Hill on the northside of Cork city last September.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death after hearing how little Leah died after she was found by her mother, Alice O'Sullivan, entangled in a support cord attached to the back of Roman blinds in the main bedroom on September 11 last.

The blinds were a handmade gift from Alice's step-mother, Jude Hogan O'Sullivan, who had made many blinds for family and friends over the years.

The blinds had been installed in Leah's house just the week before as Alice, her partner, Mike Troy, and their children, Leah and her brother, Alex, who was four at the time, were settling in to their new home.

The inquest was told that the family had taken precautions to secure all the blind draw-strings in the house by attaching metal cleats to the wall higher than usual, to keep the strings out of reach of the children.

But the inquest established that Leah became entangled in one of three vertical cords attached to the back of a Roman blind which are involved in the folding mechanism of the blind material.

Alice said she had put Leah down for a nap in a travel cot close to her bed and near the window in the main bedroom at around 11.45am.

But when she checked on her around midday she said she knew immediately that something was wrong.

She discovered Leah in an almost leaning position in the cot, with her head tilted to the side, her neck entangled in the cord.

"I rushed towards her screaming her name," she said.

She told the coroner how she made frantic efforts to remove the cord but couldn't snap it.

She dialled emergency services and carried Leah downstairs and started CPR while paramedics rushed to the scene.

Mr Troy said he got a phone call at work from Alice to come home and knew immediately that something was wrong.

As he rushed home, he was told to go straight to Cork University Hospital (CUH) as Leah was now being rushed by ambulance under garda escort to CUH.

Michael Troy, father of the late Leah Troy pictured at Cork Coroners Court.
Michael Troy, father of the late Leah Troy pictured at Cork Coroners Court.

But despite the best efforts of medical staff to resuscitate her, she was pronounced dead a short time later.

Assistant state pathologist, Dr Margot Bolster, said the cause of death was acute cardio-respiratory arrest due to ligature strangulation. She told the parents that Leah would have blacked out and wouldn't have suffered.

Alice said the family had hung the blind pull-string cords higher than usual and that she knows her step-mother blames herself for the tragedy.

"There are so many ifs and buts," she said.

Leah was a beautiful girl, curious and up to mischief. She was never sick. She was just my gorgeous baby girl.

Ms Hogan-O'Sullivan wept as her deposition was read into the record.

"I thought it was safe. I never thought if the blind was closed she'd get caught," Ms Hogan-O'Sullivan said.

"They were so excited, they had waited so long for the house.

"They had gutted it and put so much work into making it a home and making memories there."

She said her world fell apart when she heard that morning what had happened to Leah.

"I feel guilty for this. If I hadn't made this blind she would be alive," she said.

"They are great parents, Alice is a great mother, running around after the children checking on them.

"I know I've told them before but I want to say it again. I am sorry."

Coroner Philip Comyn said it was one of the most difficult and distressing inquests he and his staff have dealt with in recent years.

Addressing Leah's parents, he said: "I can only imagine the anguish you are going through.

"This was a complete accident. There is very little solace I can give you other than to consider the evidence of Dr Bolster, than Leah would have blacked out immediately and wouldn't have suffered."

'I thought it was safe': Blind cord warning after toddler's tragic death

A US study in 2015 found that nearly 17,000 young children were injured in accidents involving window blinds while almost 300 died, in most cases after becoming entangled in the cords.

There have been several tragedies in Ireland involving children getting entangled in blind cords.

In February 2009, a two-year-old boy died when he became entangled in a blind cord while playing at his family home in Carrigtwohill in east Co Cork.

His parents later called for legislation, similar to that introduced in the US and Australia which makes blind cord safety devices mandatory, to be introduced in Ireland.

An inquest in 2010 into a similar tragedy in Co Kilkenny heard that on average, since 2005, three children a year have died here from asphyxiation after getting caught in blind cords.

A European standard on the performance requirements and safety of internal blinds has existed since 2009.

But in 2012, the NSAI addressed safety concerns here by developing a specific Irish standard which set out additional safety requirements pending the outcome of wider research on European-wide standards.

Updated European standards were later published setting out the requirements that internal blinds should fulfil when they are fitted to a building to provide protection from strangulation, on the test methods used to verify that a window blind conforms to certain requirements, and on specified safety requirements for test methods for safety devices that can help to improve the safety of window blinds and prevent accidents.

These safety devices can be fitted to window blinds during the manufacturing process or fitted to window blinds that have already been installed.

However, in December 2016, a 17-month-old boy died of asphyxia after he became entangled in a blind cord at his home in Dublin.

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