Pensioner died after fall while cleaning windows, court hears

82-year-old was washing pigeon droppings off windowsill of top floor flat in Dublin

The Dublin Coroner’s Court heard today that 82-year-old Sarah Phelan fell  four floors to a small garden area directly below the flat window.

The Dublin Coroner’s Court heard today that 82-year-old Sarah Phelan fell four floors to a small garden area directly below the flat window.

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 14:29

A pensioner tragically died when she fell through a fourth floor window she was cleaning, an inquest heard.

Sarah Phelan (82) was washing a windowsill of her flat at Avondale House, North Cumberland Street, Dublin 1, on the evening of July 8th last year when the accident happened.

Gardai­ believe she was attempting to clean pigeon droppings off the windowsill when she fell.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard from neighbour Mary McDonnell that she was sitting in her flat in the block opposite Mrs Phelan’s when the accident happened at around 9pm. She said that she could see Mrs Phelan washing the windowsill of the top floor flat.

“A few minutes later she was hanging out of the cable wire shouting ‘help, help’. I ran around but when I got there she was on the ground,” she said.

She had fallen four floors to a small garden area directly below the flat window. Neighbours rushed to her aid and were performing CPR when paramedics and gardai­ arrived. Garda Kieran Brady said that she was unresponsive at the scene. Mrs Phelan was taken to the Mater Hospital where she was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

The postmortem found that she died as a result of major internal injuries sustained in the fall, including a transected aorta.

Garda Brady said that gardai­ are satisfied that there was no foul play involved in the death. The court heard that Mrs Phelan was fastidiously clean and had a dislike of pigeons congregating on her windowsill. Garda Brady said that a cloth was found on the windowsill. When asked by coroner Dr Brian Farrell if he believed that she had fallen across the windowsill while cleaning it, Garda Brady said yes.

The coroner expressed concern that the window ledges in the flat were very low and the windows could be opened fully. The family told him that the flat, which is a Dublin City Council property, has since been given to a family with young children.

Dr Farrell returned a verdict of accidental death and said that he would write to the housing department of the city council to alert them to the issues raised about the windows at the inquest.