Relatives share impact of traumatic deaths

In a compelling documentary about coroners’ inquests, families have opened up about the sudden, unexplained, and violent deaths of loved-ones.

Relatives share impact of traumatic deaths

Inquests give grieving relatives answers in the aftermath of traumatic fatalities, and while 10,000 deaths a year are reported to the coroner’s office, a fifth of them go through an inquest.

In Documentary On One’s: Cause of Death, which was recorded over a year and a half, presenter Ruairi McKenna, speaks to three families about sudden deaths.

In the RTÉ Radio One documentary, the recently retired coroner for south and west Kerry, Terence Casey, told how one court sitting prompted him to speak out about the tragic incidence of suicide in the county.

“I remember sitting in one of my courts, where six out of eight of my cases were suicidal. To look up at the gallery of people, parents, friends, brothers, sisters, and to see hurt in their faces, it hit me.

“It made me first start talking about suicide and asking people to take more care, and take more attention of the helpless out there.”

Killarney, Co Kerry couple, Dennis and Marie O’Carroll, and their four children, were devastated by the suicide of their youngest child, Nathan, at the age of 14, in December 2007.

Mr O’Carroll said the teenager was “full of the joys of life” and would have tourists staying in the family guesthouse “eating out of his hand”.

He said his son had been having minor problems in school, which his parents thought had been resolved, but when Mr O’Carroll had to spend a period in hospital, the problems reoccurred.

“For some reason, he went into a dark cloud none of us spotted, his father said.

“Between funerals and Christmas and everything, we just wanted to go into a corner and hide,” Mr O’Carroll said, but he told the documentary he never wanted the cause of his son’s death hidden.

“It was issued ‘death by suicide’, which I think was the proper thing, because, for years, this has been hidden under the table.”

He said Pieta House’s annual Darkness Into Light walk — known as Nathan’s Walk in Killarney — has raised €300,000 in the last five years.

“It can happen to anyone. We never thought it would come to our house. Why hide it? Try to get people talking and get younger people and older people to get the help.”

Maggie Bonner had to deal with learning that her partner, Michael Jackson, had unintentionally driven over her father on a dark, country road. The young couple were both 24 when her father, Frankie Bonner, 65, died on a rural road between Ballycastle and Killala, Co Mayo, in the early hours of the morning.

Mr Bonner had been out socialising and had a habit of walking home. Mr Jackson was driving to an early morning job, in tandem with a workmate in a van behind, when he noticed something lying on the dark road ahead. He tried to avoid it, but felt a slight bump and later discovered he had driven over Ms Bonner’s father.

In the radio documentary, she tells how she went to the scene to be with her partner and his workmate, after Mr Bonner desperately rang her to tell her he had hit a man on the road, and the nightmare realisation it was her father.

  • Documentary On One: Cause of Death, will be aired on RTÉ Radio One today, at 1pm, and will be repeated tomorrow, at 7pm.

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