Ambulance stood down in belief child had ‘simple fall’

Inquest told Vakaris Martinaitis (2) died of injuries sustained in fall from upstairs window

An ambulance due to be dispatched to an injured toddler who fell from an upstairs window was stood down because the controller dealing with the 999 call believed the child had suffered a simple fall in a garden area, an inquest has heard.

Vakaris Martinaitis, who was 2-years-old, died at Cork University Hospital after suffering serious head injuries when he fell from an upstairs window at the family's home at The Paddocks, Castleredmond in Midleton in Co Cork on May 6th last.

Today at Cork City Coroner's Court, Emergency Ambulance Controller at CUH, Richard Walsh told how he believed that the child had suffered a simple fall in the garden area of his home on the basis of the information that he received in the 999 call at 2pm.

Mr Walsh said he asked both Caoimhe Ryan and her father, Kevin Hennessy, if there was anything to suggest that Vakaris had fallen from a height when they rang 999 after coming upon the little boy being attended to by his distraught father, Vitas after the fall.


Neither Mr Hennessy nor Ms Ryan were aware that the little boy had fallen from the upstairs window and when questioned by Mr Walsh, described how he was lying on the garden area and said there was nothing nearby that he could have fallen from.

“I genuinely thought the child had a simple fall,” said Mr Walsh, adding that he didn’t think the child was in a life threatening situation on the basis of the information he received from Ms Ryan or Mr Hennessy, neither of whom no made mention of a fall from a window.

However it emerged at the inquest that Vitas had found his son lying on the concrete area in front of the house after falling from an upstairs window and he had moved him on to the green area just moments before Mr Hennessy and his daughter arrived on the scene.

Mr Walsh confirmed that he told Mr Hennessy that there wasn’t an ambulance available in the area at the time and given that the little boy was conscious and moving his arms and legs and that he didn’t know he had fallen from a height, he suggested they take him to SouthDoc.

Mr Walsh’s colleague, Tom McGee was on dispatching duty at the time and said a 999 call would usually get an ambulance and he was about to dispatch the Midleton ambulance, which had just become free at Cork city hospital, to attend to Vakaris in Midleton.

He had not yet made contact with the Midleton ambulance when Mr Walsh told him that it was not required on the basis that he believed the child had a simple fall in a garden and the Midleton ambulance was allowed to return to its base in the East Cork town.

Mr Hennessy told how he and Vitas brought the boy to the local SouthDoc in Midleton where Dr Ger McLaughlin examined him and told them that he needed to be taken to an Emergency Department after he heard the boy had possibly fallen from an upstairs window.

He said he would call an ambulance only for Mr Hennessy to tell him they had been told there was no ambulance available. Dr McLoughlin suggested they themselves take him to hospital so Mr Hennessy drove the boy and his father to CUH, arriving there at 2.36pm.

Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Dr Gemma Kelleher said Vakaris was quite stable on arrival but he was was triaged as the second most serious category of casualty on the basis of his age and the possibility that he may have fallen from an upstairs window.

He underwent a CT scan which showed extensive skull fracture and internal bleeding which was not surprising but these bleeds intensified, said Dr Kelleher who, in response to a question to Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane, said "time, in terms of minutes" was not critical.

The inquest, which also heard poignant testimony from Vakaris's father, Vitas about the tragedy and its impact on him and his family, resumes before Dr Cullinane and a jury of three men and four women at the Washington Street Courthouse in Cork next Tuesday.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times