Neighbour had feared for safety of Ballinasloe HSE home resident killed by car

Nessa Byrne, who intellectual disabilities, ‘used to walk on the main road without supervision’, coroner hears

Nessa Byrne had been reported missing three times, a psychiatric nurse told the hearing

Nessa Byrne had been reported missing three times, a psychiatric nurse told the hearing


A resident of a Health Service Executive home who died after she was struck by a car on the road near the residence had “wandered” to a neighbours’ house on three previous occasions, a coroner’s court heard yesterday.

Pat Gavin, who lives next door to Hazel Heights, a residential home for people with intellectual disabilities near Ballinasloe, Co Galway, said he had informed the HSE of Nessa Byrne coming to his house on three occasions prior to her death on November 5th, 2010.

In a deposition read out in Ballaghaderreen Coroner’s Court in Roscommon, Mr Gavin stated Ms Byrne, who was 55 at the time of her death and had an autism spectrum disorder and was unable to speak, would come into his house and sit down.

Three complaints
“My wife and I were initially shocked . . . Nessa was no harm to anybody but I always felt that she was a danger to herself as she used to walk on the main road without supervision,” he said. He lodged three complaints with HSE management in the months prior to Ms Byrne’s death. Asked how many times Ms Byrne had been reported missing from the home, Breda Salmon, a registered psychiatric nurse with HSE West, said that, according to her care plan, it had happened three times. Ms Salmon said a latched gate had been installed.

A legal representative for the HSE said the Mental Health Commission code of practice states that mental healthcare should be provided to people in the “least restrictive environment consistent with their needs”.

Having deliberated, the jury returned, asking questions both of the HSE and of Mr Gavin. Following further deliberations, the jury returned a verdict of misadventure. Coroner Desmond O’Connor recorded a verdict of misadventure. The jury made two recommendations: people in State care should have “proper supervision at all times and particularly after the hours of darkness”; and homes should not be located in places without public lighting or footpaths.