Infant died after becoming entangled in window blind cord

Inquest jury returns verdict of accidental death in case of Leah Troy (1) from Cork

Alice O’Sullivan, mother of the late Leah Troy, arriving at  Cork City Coroner’s for the inquest into her daughter’s death.

Alice O’Sullivan, mother of the late Leah Troy, arriving at Cork City Coroner’s for the inquest into her daughter’s death.

 

A 13-month-old accidentally strangled to death after becoming entangled in a window blind cord at her family home in Cork, an inquest has heard.

Leah Troy got caught in a cord at the back of a Roman blind that her parents, Alice O’Sullivan (28) and Michael Troy (32), had received as a gift and installed in an upstairs bedroom at Delaney Park, Dublin Hill on September 11th, 2018.

Ms O’Sullivan told Cork City Coroner’s Court that she was at home with Leah and her brother Alex (4) on the day and that the siblings had been playing together before she brought the infant upstairs to nap at 11.45am.

Leah was placed in a travel cot between the couple’s bed and the window but the cot was place about two feet from the window due to the possible risk of the infant becoming entangled in the blind.

Ms O’Sullivan said the blinds were received as a gift from her stepmother, Jude O’Sullivan, who had made them. The family was conscious of the danger posed by the pull cords and set them up so as not to pose a risk to the children.

Ms O’Sullivan said she presumed Leah had fallen asleep as she did not hear anything from her, but when she went upstairs after midday she found her daughter entangled in one of the strings hanging from the back of the blind.

‘Something wrong’

“I knew when I went into the bedroom that there was something wrong, she was just staring out the window. She was almost kneeling, almost standing,” said Ms O’Sullivan, who added that she was unable to snap the string.

She pulled the string from both ends to free Leah and then phoned 999 before bringing the child downstairs and trying to give her CPR under instruction from the emergency services.

Paramedics arrived and took Ms O’Sullivan and Leah to Cork University Hospital, where they were joined by Mr Troy. However, Leah was pronounced dead at 2pm.

“She was beautiful, always up to mischief, curious, never sick - she was just my gorgeous baby girl,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

Jude O’Sullivan said Alice and Mr Troy asked her to make a blind for their new house when they saw others she made for her own home. She finished the blinds in July 2018 and they were carefully fitted after the the risk posed by the draw cord was discussed. The holding cleat was set well up the side of the window and the draw cord was shortened, she said.

“I never thought that when the blind was closed that the child could get caught in the vertical cord at the back of the blind - that day my world fell apart. If I hadn’t made this blind, Leah would be alive, I feel very guilty. I know I have told them, Alice and Mike, before but I am very sorry,” she said.

Ligature

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest that her colleague Prof Nollaig Parfrey carried out a postmortem on Leah, which found that she died from acute cardio-respiratory arrest due to ligature strangulation.

Prof Parfrey found no signs of asphyxia or petachial marks on Leah’s neck and said the toddler would have passed out immediately due to pressure on the vagal nerve, meaning she would have not suffered in any way, Dr Bolster added.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and recommended that the media highlight the case in order to illustrate the dangers blinds pose to children.

Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn made a similar recommendation and advised people to read information on the topic of safe installation on the National Standards Authority of Ireland’s website.

“I must say I found this one of the most distressing inquests I have dealt with in a very long time,” the coroner said. “ I found it difficult as did my staff and I want to thank all the witnesses who gave evidence here today in very difficult circumstances.

“I can only imagine the anguish the family is going through. This was a complete accident (and) there is very little solace other than to consider the evidence of Dr Bolster, that Leah would have blacked out immediately and would not have suffered.”