Gardaí believe that Private Patrick Conlon, aged 32, from Coolaney, Co Sligo, may have been attempting to get into a first-floor bedroom by climbing from one window to another when he fell 30ft in the early hours of July 25 last year.
Pte Conlon was based at Finner Camp in Donegal and Dublin Coroner’s Court heard he had travelled to McKee Barracks in Dublin for a two-day fitness test. On the afternoon of the first day, he and his room-mates went into the city where they had dinner and visited a number of pubs.
After midnight, Pte Conlon and Pte Owen McLoughlin went to a takeaway while Sergeant Ronan Caldwell, who had the key to the room, and another colleague finished a drink. By the time they were done, Pte Conlon and Pte McLoughlin had already made their way back to McKee Barracks.
Pte McLoughlin said when they arrived at the room at around 1am, they found the door locked. He went to see if he could find Sgt Caldwell but returned on realising that Pte Conlon had the sergeant’s phone number. When he went back up, Pte Conlon was not there and his food was left by the toilet door. He called out Pte Conlon’s name and then noticed that the window of the toilet was wide open. He saw Pte Conlon lying on the ground below. He went to him and found him unresponsive.
Pte Conlon was taken to the Mater Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
The postmortem found he died as a result of multiple traumatic injuries consistent with a fall from a height. The toxicology screen found a blood alcohol level of 254mgs. Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said this is a “very significantly high level of alcohol”.
Garda Redmond O’Leary said there were no suspicious circumstances involved in the death.
Hearsay evidence from other soldiers indicated that there may have been a practice of personnel using a ledge to access rooms when they were locked out.
Pte Conlon’s father, Christopher Conlon, said more keys should have been available for the room.
Returning a verdict of death by misadventure, Dr Farrell said he would write to the office of the Defence Forces’ chief of staff to raise the issue of the keys and the anecdotal evidence of soldiers using ledges to access windows.