A child who was playing on a housing estate green has died after gaining access to the nearby river through a gap in two fences.
The tragedy which unfolded in the Tír Cluain housing estate on the outskirts of Midleton on Saturday night prompted renewed calls from local residents for proper fencing or barriers to prevent another tragedy.
A low-sized green wire fence runs the length of the estate’s green area — where local children often play football — fencing it off from the river bank.
This fence runs down to meet a six-foot high wooden fence at right angles. A sign on the wooden fence warns against trespassers.
But there is a wide gap where the two fences meet through which young James Casey Butler and his friends passed some time around 6pm on Saturday. The gap, large enough to allow an adult squeeze through, was the focus of a Garda examination yesterday as a forensic officer traced the route taken by the youngsters.
But minutes after the young boys passed through it, James lost his footing on the river bank, and plunged in to the fast-flowing water, swollen after days of heavy rain. He was washed some 300 metres downstream before two local men risked their own lives to jump in and grab him.
Tír Cluain residents were still reeling from the shock yesterday and expressed concern about repeated damage to the river bank’s protective fence.
“This was a tragedy waiting to happen,” one neighbour said.
Local man, John Shanahan, a guide dog user, told reporters the tragedy could have been avoided if a proper fence was installed.
“It is a nightmare for everyone but especially for the poor family. Our hearts go out to them,” he said.
“It’s lovely having a green here for the children to play on, but having a hazard like the river nearby is terrible — there should be adequate protection here.”
Another neighbour, Caroline Delaney, said the fences have been damaged and repaired several times.
“I guarantee you if you ask any parent in the estate, they will all say the river is their biggest worry here,” she said.
It is understood that the wire fence has been damaged and repaired at least twice in recent months.
And as word filtered out last night that James had died, shocked locals vowed to do everything in their power to ensure the fence issue is tackled and that no other family has to suffer like James’s family.
Tír Cluain was built by Fleming Construction in the mid-2000s, a company which has since gone in to liquidation. Some of its 200-plus homes are in Nama. It is understood that the housing estate is in the county council’s administrative area.