The tragic death of 4-year-old Daniel Cleary at his family home in Drumbar, Donegal town was an accident, the jury at the inquest (Tuesday) ruled.
The inquest heard that Daniel and his younger brother David (2) both loved to get a lift in the cab of their uncle Raymond Cleary’s Manitou, a telescopic loader, whenever he was about. He said he would normally only take one at a time, for safety reasons.
On the afternoon of Thursday, June 2 last, Raymond was helping move trees that had been cut down. Their mother Patricia brought them out to him so that he could give them a lift for the 300-400 yard journey back to the house. Then Raymond offered to put two 45-gallons of oil into one of two large containers in the yard so they wouldn’t be stolen.
In Patricia Cleary’s deposition, read out by Sgt. Tom Mitchell, she said that David was in the cab while Daniel “guided Raymond by way of hand signals when he was loading the first oil drum into the container”. She then asked Daniel to get the keys to the other container from the house, but he wanted to stay, so she went to get them and told Raymond she was doing so.
In Raymond Cleary’s deposition, also read out by Sgt. Mitchell, he said he had turned the teleporter off for safety reasons after placing the first oil drum in the container. He got back in and turned the teleporter on to move the second oil drum. He continued: “I heard a loud noise and when I looked to the right, I saw that one of doors had fallen. One of the doors was lying flat and I was afraid Daniel was under it.”
When the door was moved, Daniel was found to be unconscious, with blood coming from his nose and mouth. Raymond Cleary dailed 999 and ambulance crews from both Donegal town and Killybegs responded as well as gardaí and two local doctors. Dr Marie Drumgoole pronounced Daniel dead at the scene at 5.45pm.
A report from the post mortem by Dr Saman Abdulla at Letterkenny General Hospital indicated that the cause of death was a deep fracture of the skull at the base of the brain that would have resulted in instant loss of consciousness.
The coroner, Dr. Diarmuid Hegarty, told the family: “In case you are worried that he might have suffered, the answer is no. He would have gone unconscious instantly. If that had happened in the best hospital, nothing could have been done to save him.”
He told the jury: “The facts are quite clear. This was a tragic, tragic accident. It’s a terrible, terrible blow to the family.”
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.
The foreman, the coroner and Sgt. Mitchell all conveyed their heartfelt sympathies to the family. “I hope that with the passage of time you will be able to get some degree of closure,” Dr. Hegarty concluded.