Girl (5) playing when ‘defective’ gate fell on her, inquest told

Court told a number of people had to lift gate off Sienna Joyce after incident in Ashbourne

Sienna Joyce was playing outside her home at The Ward, Ashbourne, on June 27th, 2016, when she was fatally injured when a defective gate fell on her. Image: Rip.ie.

Sienna Joyce was playing outside her home at The Ward, Ashbourne, on June 27th, 2016, when she was fatally injured when a defective gate fell on her. Image: Rip.ie.

 

A heavy wooden gate was mechanically defective when it fell and crushed a five-year-old girl in Co Meath, an inquest heard.

Sienna Joyce was playing outside her home at The Ward, Ashbourne, on June 27th, 2016, when the gate came off its sliding rails and fell, trapping her underneath.

Her mother, Maria Joyce, who was in the house making sandwiches at the time of the incident, said she heard “the loudest bang” outside and saw her son trying to lift the gate.

“I ran and tried to lift it but I couldn’t. I screamed for help,” she said.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard that David Joyce, Sienna’s dad, and his father were working in a yard at about 6.20pm when they heard screaming. Mr Joyce said he “just knew something had happened to one of my children”.

A number of people were needed to lift the gate, which was made of solid timber and had a steel frame, in order to free Sienna. An ambulance was called and Sienna was taken to Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin, where she was later pronounced dead.

No prosecution

A postmortem found the cause of her death was a severe head injury due to being crushed by the gate. Gardaí investigated the incident and a file was submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions but no prosecution was directed.

The court heard that maintenance work had been carried out on the gate two weeks previously and that Mr Joyce was waiting for the job to be completed.

Damien Power, a consulting engineer, said there was nothing physical to stop the rollers on the gate and therefore nothing to stop it from coming out of its tracks.

“The top rail should have been fitted with a fundamental physical stop, it could have been fitted between the gate and the pillar,” he said, adding that this was the second fatal incident he had investigated involving this type of sliding gate.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a verdict of misadventure.

“It is something that is unimaginable, the loss of a beautiful young girl in these circumstances,” she said.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Joyce said Sienna was “our little princess” and that “nothing will bring her back.

“She was such a girly girl, she loved to dress up, she loved her long curly hair. She was a little character, she could light up a room and everyone loved her,” he said.