Vulnerable youths urged to seek help

Derry Clarke with his daughter Sarah-May, left, and his wife Sallyanne Parker-Clarke at the funeral of their son, 17-year-old Andrew, below, early in January. The coroner at his inquest yesterday returned an open verdict. Picture: Colin Keegan

Restaurateurs Derry Clarke and Sallyanne Parker-Clarke have urged vulnerable young people to seek help following the inquest into the death of their teenage son.

Andrew Clarke, aged 16, was found slumped against a car in the garage of the family home on Meegans Lane, Crooksling, in Brittas, south county Dublin, on December 27 last year. He died four days later at Tallaght Hospital.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned an open verdict after a urine analysis carried out on Andrew’s admission to hospital found cocaine and benzodiazepines, casting doubt on his state of mind at the time of his death.

His parents were in court with their daughter, Sarah-May. They declined to give evidence from the witness box but their depositions were read into the record.

Ms Parker-Clarke said she found Andrew slumped against his car in the garage when she went to call him for brunch at 1.35pm. He had gone to the garage about 25 minutes earlier. He was unconscious when she found him.

She attempted to lift him, she said, but he was 6ft 4in and weighed 17 stone so she was unable to do so. She screamed for help and Mr Clarke arrived with Sarah-May and boyfriend Diarmuid O’Connor.

“We cut the cord and laid him on the ground beside his car and I started CPR with Diarmuid. Sarah-May called for medical aid which subsequently arrived. The ambulance men took over CPR and removed him to a waiting ambulance where they got a heartbeat,” she said.

Dr Farrell told the family that were it not for their prompt intervention, Andrew would likely have died at the scene.

He was taken to Tallaght Hospital where a scan showed evidence of hypoxic brain injury, caused when his brain was deprived of oxygen during the hanging incident. Brain stem death was later confirmed. Andrew died on December 31.

The court heard that three people benefited from organ donation following his death.

The pathologist gave the cause of death as a hypoxic brain injury as a result of asphyxia due to hanging. Dr Farrell said a urine screen carried out on Andrew’s admission to hospital found cocaine, benzodiazepines, and painkiller medication in his system. At postmortem, a breakdown product of cocaine was present.

Paul McGarry, for the family, said they had been “very surprised” and “shocked” on hearing of the toxicology results.

The court heard there was no history of clinical depression or self-harm. Mr McGarry said Andrew’s death had come “completely out of the blue”.

Returning the open verdict, Dr Farrell said he did not believe the evidence met the standard required to return a verdict of suicide. The presence of cocaine and benzodiazepines, in particular, went to the question of intention, he said.

Mr McGarry said the family were “deeply saddened by the loss of their darling son and brother” and urge people to “seek help”, particularly vulnerable young people. He said they had found “particular solace” in services such as Teenline and Console and urged that they be supported in the future.


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