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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 27 January 2021

'Lessons should be learned' says parents of four-year-old who died of viral infection at crèche

An inquest is taking place in Cork.

A family photograph of Cillian O’Driscoll.
A family photograph of Cillian O’Driscoll.

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 crèche in Ballincollig, Co Cork.

Cillian O’Driscoll of Parkgate in Frankfield, Cork was found in a critical state at the Kinder Care crèche at 2pm on 14 December 2018

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

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 crèche play room as other children, supervised by staff, played and did yoga. 

The youngster, who had a diagnosis of ASD and was primarily non-verbal, had a Department of Educated-funded special needs assistant for a portion of his day at the crèche. However, this assistant left shortly after noon daily with Cillian being in the care of general staff from that point until he was collected after 3pm.  

Cork Coroner’s Court heard that Cillian was dropped off at the crèche on 14 December by his father John Paul. He stated that Cillian had picked up the phrase “all the best” and said it as he waved goodbye to his father and younger brother. 

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

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

John Paul said their “little boy was no longer there – his body was listless, as were his eyes”.

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

The inquest also heard from Cillian’s special needs assistant Christine Murray. She said he became sleepy that morning whilst playing in his safe place which was the small tree house.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The court heard that the owner of the crèche, Frances Cunningham, and her two assistant managers were at a Christmas lunch when the tragedy unfolded.

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

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

The crèche has been visited by Tusla since the tragedy and has been found to be fully compliant. 

About the author:

Olivia Kelleher

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