Rig worker ‘lost the plot’ in hospital violence

Cork University Hospital

The contents of a fire extinguisher was sprayed at three security men during a scene of violence and mayhem at Cork University Hospital.

Cork District Court heard Liam McGowan smashed a glass panel in a door and set off a fire extinguisher, which he then sprayed into the faces of three security officers who were trying to restore order and protect patients.

A contributing factor for McGowan “losing the plot” on the night was alleged to have been the fact that he had been submerged upside down in water earlier that day as part of a training exercise for working on an oil rig.

McGowan, of 138 Meadowbrook, Craigavon, Co Armagh, pleaded guilty at Cork District Court yesterday to charges of assault causing harm to three security men at the accident and emergency unit of the CUH on November 5, 2017. He also admitted causing criminal damage at the emergency unit.

John Looney, one of the injured officers, told the court McGowan was a “danger to patients”.

“He was a danger to us,” said Mr Looney. “It went on for six and a half hours. Gardaí came twice. He was taken away twice and he was taken back to us.”

Another injured officer, Michael Tobin, said that McGowan “lost the plot”.

As for why the accused was taken to the hospital, Inspector Finbarr O’Sullivan said: “He had a fit. That was why he was brought back. There were medical concerns about him that had to be dealt with.”

Judge Olann Kelleher notified from one medical report that McGowan had suffered from alcohol withdrawal. Defence solicitor Donal Daly said McGowan was visiting Cork for a training course for oil rig work.

“This included submerging him upside down in water and giving him oxygen. He found this very traumatic,” Mr Daly said.

Afterwards, McGowan and others on the course went out in Cork City and he had a seizure in a hotel and had to be taken to hospital.

“It seemed he signed himself out,” said Mr Daly. “Gardaí had him medically assessed on his mental stability and he was brought back to hospital.

“His behaviour was not normal. It is quite clear he had lost the plot. It was absolutely and totally out of character. He was involved in conduct that was totally alarming to him. He has the greatest sympathy in the world for the three men.”

Judge Olann Kelleher said it was a very serious matter.

“It has custodial sentence written all over it,” he said.

However, he required the preparation of a specialist medical report and a probation report in advance of sentencing on March 26.

Injuries sustained by the three security officers included eye damage from the fire extinguisher spray. Mr Tobin is still out of work as a result of his injuries.


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