‘It would have helped us grieve if we could have seen Naoise where he lay’ – father of teenager who died in mountain bike accident


The parents of a boy killed in a mountain bike accident in the Dublin Mountains have called for a change in Garda policy to allow parents of children killed in sudden, tragic circumstances to find their body at the scene to see.

Aoise O’Sullivan (13) from Beech Court, Killiney, Co Dublin died on 11th August 2020 from a traumatic spinal injury sustained in a fall on a trail in Dublin’s Ticknock Forest while out mountain biking with two friends drove.

His parents, Mark and Sabrina O’Sullivan, have expressed frustration that Gardaí did not allow them access to the scene of the accident to see their son’s body before it was removed by an ambulance.

They also criticized their experiences at Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin, where Naoise’s body was taken after the accident.

Ms O’Sullivan told a session of the Dublin County Coroner’s Court that she and her husband were not allowed to go past a barrier on Lake Garda to see where Naoise had died.

The inquest learned they could only see their son’s body as it was wheeled into a waiting ambulance.

Ms O’Sullivan said she remained “as calm as a breeze” despite having to wait a long time behind the barrier before she was allowed to see her son.

Her husband, Mark, said they fully understand the need for gardaí to preserve the scene of a crime or accident, but felt more flexibility could be offered to parents of children who died in tragic circumstances.

“It would have been very helpful in our grieving process if we could have seen Naoise where she lay,” Mr O’Sullivan said. “That makes it harder to understand how the accident happened.”

Garda Gráinne Harrahill from Dundrum garda station explained that in such cases gardaí has ​​to follow certain procedures to preserve the scene of a crime or accident.

She said family members were not to be allowed near the scene and it was considered more appropriate by Gardaí on the day that they should see Naoise in the ambulance.

Garda Harrahill said she only later realized the upset the family had caused.

Ms O’Sullivan said she hoped it would be the norm for parents to be able to visit the scene in the future.

Her husband said they also did not receive the normal treatment from staff at Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin when Naoise’s body was brought into the hospital morgue through a back entrance.

Mr O’Sullivan said normal procedures for families of dead children had not been followed and they were pressed for time to get other relatives to see their son before the morgue closed.

He said some of Naoise’s clothes, which they wished they could retrieve, were burned.

“It would be nice if that didn’t happen to other people in our situation,” he noted.

Mr O’Sullivan said the hospital subsequently apologized and expressed regret for what happened.

In previous evidence, Ms O’Sullivan said she became aware of an accident in Ticknock while waiting near a cafe in the local car park and saw an ambulance arriving, unaware that it was there for her son.

She recalled trying to call Naoise at 2.45pm but wasn’t concerned that she couldn’t reach him as there was poor signal.

Ms O’Sullivan said she still didn’t think anything unusual was going on when he failed to show up at 3.10pm – 10 minutes after they were scheduled to meet.

She told the inquiry that a passing cyclist told her there had been an accident. When she asked if it was serious, she was told that someone had died and that it was a group of three boys.

Ms O’Sullivan said she realized Naoise was the victim after walking to a cordon near the scene of the accident and seeing his two friends.

She said her son, the eldest of her four children, wore a full-face helmet along with gloves and knee pads.

She recalled that they spoke on the phone at 2pm after he had been riding his bike for two hours and they agreed that he could go on for another hour.

Ms O’Sullivan described Naoise as “very athletic who loved the outdoors, swimming and scouting”.

She said he was also “very intelligent, confident and mature.”

In a written statement, Naoise’s friend Leo Boland said everything was fine until one of the last trails of the day.

He said he fell behind Naoise as he was tired walking down the path and didn’t see what happened before bumping into his friend who was lying on his back on the ground moaning.

The investigation revealed he knew it was serious when there was no sign of breathing or noise from his friend later.

Naoise was pronounced dead at the scene at 3.20pm after attempts at resuscitation were halted when he showed no signs of life.

Leo said the accident happened on the Skyline trail, which is one of the easiest in Ticknock and they had ridden it together about 50 times before.

Coillte’s Deborah Meehan, who oversees the mountain bike trails, said the Skyline trail was rated easy despite a “red” (difficult) rating.

Ms Meehan said the trail was inspected earlier that day and found to be good.

The investigation revealed that Naoise’s mountain bike was also in good condition.

The pathologist who performed a post-mortem on Naoise’s body, Professor Anthony Dorman, said he suffered no acute external injuries.

However, Prof Dorman said the victim died because he was unable to breathe due to a serious spinal cord injury associated with falling off a bicycle.

Prof Dorman said death from such an injury was inevitable and was almost instantaneous.

Returning a verdict of accidental death, coroner Aisling Gannon said she would update both An Garda Síochána and Children’s Health Ireland in Crumlin about the issues raised by Naoise’s family.

Ms Gannon expressed her sympathy and condolences to the victim’s parents and said she could not imagine how difficult the investigation must have been for her to have to relive what happened to her son. ‘It would have helped us grieve if we could have seen Naoise where he lay’ – father of teenager who died in mountain bike accident

Fry Electronics Team

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