A CORONER at an inquest into the death of a 23-month-old boy who became caught in the looped cord of a window blind said he had heard similar inquests in the past and that “this type of blind should no longer be manufactured”.
Dean Patrick Regan Russell of Muing, Oakpark Road, Tralee, Co Kerry, died at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, on January 7th this year, five days after he became entangled in the beaded looped cord of a roller blind in his bedroom. The incident occurred on January 2nd last, two weeks before his second birthday.
His heartbroken parents and family yesterday appealed for a ban on such looped cord blinds.
“I want a ban on these blinds so this doesn’t happen to another child,” the little boy’s grandfather, Martin Regan, said from the body of the court.
Coroner Brian Farrell, who recorded a verdict of accidental death, told Dublin Coroner’s Court that the configuration of the looped string was “the danger”.
“Clearly this is a dangerous design,” said the coroner, who is to contact the relevant authorities in an effort to make sure this kind of blind is no longer manufactured. “We have had similar inquests in the past where infants have become entangled in the looped strings of similar blinds. We have made recommendations in public, and to the national standards authority, and to individual manufacturers that the configuration be modified and the string be separated into two lengths.
“It’s sad to say that blinds with this configuration are still available,” he said.
“We need to emphasise this. It has caused the deaths of several infants . . . in Dublin . . . and now we have a death in Kerry.”
The boy’s mother, Joanne Russell, speaking from the body of the court, said the blinds they were sold in April 2010 were “against EU regulations from July 2009”.
“There were no warning signs or safety devices attached,” she said.
The little boy’s parents cried and hugged each other after the coroner told the inquest that their baby son would not have suffered and would have become unconscious instantaneously.
Speaking from the body of the court, Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, a family friend who attended the inquest, said such blinds had caused the deaths of 119 children in the United States since 1999, and that there had been some 10 deaths in Ireland, Britain, Finland, the Netherlands and Turkey between 2008 and 2010.
The baby’s uncle, Martin Regan jnr, discovered what had happened when he checked on Dean, who had been put to bed for his afternoon nap.
He saw that Dean appeared to be standing at the window and he called to him, but there was no answer.
“I went in . . . and found he had become entangled in the cord for the blind in his room,” said Mr Regan, who broke down in the witness box.
Giving evidence, Michael Russell said he ran into his son’s room when he saw Martin jump over the safety gate of the bedroom. “I saw Martin had Dean in his arms and Martin was taking the cord of the blind from around Dean’s neck.
“I told Martin to give Dean to me and he handed him to me. Dean’s body seemed lifeless,” he said.
Mr Russell tried to resuscitate the child while Joanne drove to Tralee General Hospital.
The baby was in cardiac arrest upon arrival at the hospital.
He was airlifted to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, the following day and died in his parents’ arms four days later.
The coroner recorded a cause of death as brain injury as a result of the baby becoming caught in the looped cord of a roller blind.
“This is a tragic accident,” he said, recording a verdict of accidental death.
“I can’t imagine what you have been through as parents. I want to say how much we empathise with you in your grief,” he told Mr and Mrs Russell, who have a daughter Faith (7).
“If we can save the life of one child, Dean’s death will not have been in vain,” said Mr Regan jnr, speaking outside the court.
“Dean was a happy-go-lucky, loveable boy. He was very active, like a normal child for his age. It’s very tough.
“This tragedy could have been prevented if blind manufacturers had taken the simple step of removing the loop cords from blinds,” said Mr Regan.
“We are calling on the governments on both sides of the Border to ban loop blinds . . . and are asking the relevant Ministers to bring in legislation to enforce this.”
Speaking after the inquest, Mr Regan snr said they were happy with the outcome of the inquest, in that they now knew that Dean did not suffer and that the coroner had undertaken to write to the relevant authorities.
“Dean is not the first child [this has happened to] and unless something is done and the Government take the relevant steps, unfortunately Dean won’t be the last child,” he said.