Child (4) died of viral infection following nap at Cork creche

Verdict of natural causes recorded at inquest where father recalls son saying ‘All the best’

A family photograph of Cillian O’Driscoll (4) who died of viral infection in the lungs which attacked his heart and caused his sudden death.

A family photograph of Cillian O’Driscoll (4) who died of viral infection in the lungs which attacked his heart and caused his sudden death.

 

A four-year-old boy died when a viral infection in his lungs attacked his heart after he was discovered unresponsive following a two-and-a-half hour sleep at his creche in Ballincollig, Co Cork, an inquest has heard.

Cillian O’Driscoll of Parkgate in Frankfield, Cork was an energetic child with a great love of jigsaws. He was found in a critical state at the Kinder Care creche at 2pm on December 14th, 2018.

In a subsequent review of the creche, Tusla expressed concern that a Safe Sleep Policy was not properly adhered to at the facility.

John Paul and Deirdre O’Driscoll, parents of the late Cillian O’Driscoll of Frankfield, Cork pictured at Cork coroner’s court. Photograph: Cork Court
John Paul and Deirdre O’Driscoll, parents of the late Cillian O’Driscoll of Frankfield, Cork pictured at Cork coroner’s court. Photograph: Cork Court

Cillian was glanced at by workers at various intervals as opposed to being checked every 10 minutes, as per the recommendations for young children. No formal written record of checks was made.

Cillian was sleeping on his side in a small “tree house” in the creche play room as other children, supervised by staff, played and did yoga.

The youngster, who had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and was primarily non verbal, had a Department of Education-funded special needs assistant (SNA) for a portion of his day at the creche. The SNA left shortly after noon daily, with Cillian then being in the care of general staff until he was collected after 3pm.

Cork Coroner’s Court heard Cillian was dropped off at the creche on December 14th by his father, John Paul O’Driscoll. Cillian had picked up the phrase “All the best” and said it as he waved goodbye to his father and younger brother.

Mr O’Driscoll received a call at 2.30pm to say Cillian was unconscious.

He was placed on life support when he arrived at Cork University Hospital.

Mr O’Driscoll said their “little boy was no longer there – his body was listless, as were his eyes”.

The boy’s mother Deirdre O’Driscoll said Cillian was never happier than playing outdoors or with his beloved jigsaws. He had tonsillitis a month before his death but there was no cause for concern about his health.

The inquest also heard from Cillian’s SNA Christine Murray. She said he became sleepy that morning while playing in his “safe place”, the “tree house”.

Ms Murray said Cillian fell asleep at around 11.30am. She stayed with him for a few minutes. She did not disturb him as he looked comfortable napping in his warm Christmas jumper.

She looked at him through the bars of the “tree house” prior to finishing her shift shortly after noon. She recalled seeing his “rosy red cheeks” and had no concerns about the “bubbly child”. Other workers were made aware he was asleep.

Employee Ciara O’Connor said she saw Cillian moving at around 1.15pm. The alarm was raised at 2pm when he was found unresponsive. CPR was carried out.

Assistant State pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Cillian died of cardio respiratory arrest due to myocarditis and a florid bilateral bronchial pneumonia, and it was likely he was displaying no symptoms at the time of his death.

A verdict of natural causes was recorded. The jury recommended staff in all creches be made aware of all policies and procedures in place and are regularly updated on any changes.

In a statement Cillian’s parents said they hoped lessons would be learned. Specifically, they felt Cillian should have been properly checked during his long nap.

The creche had passed a full Tusla inspection in May 2018.

The court heard the owner of the creche Frances Cunningham and her two assistant managers were at a Christmas lunch when the tragedy occurred.

A fourth person in the chain of command had been designated the person in charge. Ms Cunningham said this was an “unusual” occurrence.

The full complement of staff was in place in their absence.

The creche has been visited by Tusla since and has been found to be fully compliant.