Attempts to rescue flood victim backfired

Attempts to rescue a woman trapped in a basement flat during last year’s floods in Dublin by breaking a window backfired as water poured in, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.

The inquest into the death of Filipino hospice worker and mother Celia De Jesus, who drowned at her flat on Parnell Rd, heard that her neighbours tried to save her as she screamed for help.

The incident occurred during heavy rainfall on Oct 24, last year. Flooding engulfed houses on Parnell Rd as water from the River Poddle surged towards the Grand Canal.

Ms de Jesus’s upstairs neighbour, Larija Vingre, said that while investigating a noise downstairs she saw water pouring in and heard Ms de Jesus calling for help.

She went outside where she saw Ms de Jesus trying to open her door.

“The water was as high as the window part of the door. It looked like she dropped the key but she couldn’t find it. I saw the girl and she saw me. She shouted, screamed for help even louder.”

Ms Vingre ran upstairs and looked for the help of five men living on the top floor flat. Ishfaq Ahmed waded into waist-high water outside the basement door and attempted to kick it in.

At this stage, water was pouring out of vents located higher than the door and bedroom window of the flat. He said he broke the window and water poured out. He could not enter the flat because there were bars on the window. His hand was bleeding and he went upstairs to find something to cover it. When he returned, water was pouring in the windows.

Dublin Fire Brigade attended the scene but could not access the flat. Holes were cut in the floor of the flat above to allow divers access but the water was almost tipping the ceiling.

Ms de Jesus’s body was not retrieved until the following morning when firefighters were able to pump water out of the flat. She was discovered in the bedroom. The autopsy found she had drowned.

The solicitor representing the family, Elizabeth Ferris, said the deceased’s husband and son, 19, were not able to attend the inquest because immigration officials had refused permission for them to remain in Ireland beyond their initial visas.

Ms De Jesus had been living in the flat for two months, landlord Andrew Donaghoe told the court. He said although there were bars on the windows, they could be removed. He said on the morning after the incident he found the key to the front door hanging on the inside door frame.

James Briscoe, the senior executive fire prevention officer with Dublin Fire Brigade, said the only means of exit had been through the basement door. This was not unusual in flats in the area.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

He is to write to Dublin City Council and the Fire Safety Authority to recommend a review of safety guidelines for entrance and exit from basement flats following the incident.

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