Coroner cites alcohol as factor in boy's drowning


A verdict of death due to drowning with alcohol as a contributory factor was returned in the inquest into the death of Co Tyrone teenager, Brendan Rush in Letterkenny today.

The 15-year-old from Castlederg disappeared following a night out with friends in Donegal Town on February 17th 2002. His body was discovered bay some ten days later in the nearby bay.

At the conclusion of the two-day inquest, Coroner Mr John Cannon delivered a hard hitting message to those present. "It is very sad that the sequence of events leading to Brendan's very tragic death were punctuated by alcohol. An easy access is regrettable to note and the start of the bus journey was influenced by alcohol.""It is perturbing to see that entertainments such as a dance are overshadowed by alcohol to such a degree that the event becomes of little consequence. We are living in dangerous times when peer pressure, attitudes, advertisements and marketing tellus unless you partake in alcoholic beverages, you are not in the gang. Given his young age, it is a distinct possibility that Brendan fell into that trap," he concluded.

Numerous witnesses gave evidence of seeing the deceased in a drunken state on the night in question. The inquest was also told the teenager missed his bus home and was spotted and spoken to by gardaí on two occasions after 3.30 a.m.

Garda JimConnolly told the inquest that the boy had drink taken, but didn't appear to be out of control. He told gardaí he was fine and was going to catch his bus home and actually shook hands with him.

Troy Heaton also of Castlederg, who was aged 16 at the time travelled to the disco in the Abbey Hotel in Donegal along with Brendan Rush. He said a third party, Paul Doogan purchased two bottles of 'Buckfast' wine and two large blue bottles of 'WKD' forhimself and Brendan at the Crescent Bar in Castlederg prior to leaving on the bus for Donegal Town. Mr Heaton said most of this alcohol, along with a further sports bottle filled with vodka and the alcopop, 'Red Square' had also been consumed on boardLynch's bus.

Mr Heaton also said he noticed Brendan in the disco and that he was in good form but not drunk. He said he had to look after another friend, Aiden Dolan, who was very drunk. On returning to the bus following the disco just after 2.30 a.m., he realised Brendan wasn't on board. He said he shouted to the driver, Frank Coyle on two occasions that his friend was missing.

However, this was strongly refuted by Mr Coyle, also of Castlederg, who said he had 13 years experience of driving buses and taxis and it would be irresponsible to leave somebody behind. He said he asked if everybody was on board and was told to goahead.

Solicitor for the Rush family, John Fahy questioned why Gardai didn't take any action when they knew that a minor had alcohol and had been served on a local premises.

Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Marie Cassidy had last week, told the inquest that the teenager was grossly intoxicated and had an alcohol level of 317mg per 100ml of urine. She said with the exception of grazing to the knuckles and a few marksaround his knee, his overall appearance was consistent with drowning.

The 12-person jury deliberated for 25 minutes before returning a verdict of death by drowning with alcohol as a contributory factor which had been recommended by both the coroner and Dr Cassidy.