independent

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Aoife died from drowning, not helicopter fall

By david looby

Aoife Winterlich fell while being winched aboard a rescue helicopter. Picture: John Hughes
Aoife Winterlich fell while being winched aboard a rescue helicopter. Picture: John Hughes
The late Aoife Winterlich.

THE inquest into the death of a 14-year-old girl who died off the rocks at Hook Head while on a scouting trip in December 2015, has heard that she died due to a lack of oxygen to the brain as a result of near drowning.

Dublin Coroner's Court heard last week that there was no evidence of trauma that contributed to her death and that the coastguard crew involved in the rescue had never performed a double winching rescue simultaneously before.

Aoife Winterlich, from Walkinstown Road, Crumlin, Dublin, was visiting Hook Head lighthouse when she was swept off the rocks into the sea along with three others. The tragic teenager fell 45 feet after reaching the door of a coastguard helicopter during a rescue operation. An incident report from the Air Accident and Investigation Unit Ireland (AAIU) into the circumstances surrounding the death of Aoife Winterlich found earlier this year that the winchman who opted to lift her and a second teen out of the water simultaneously made a "sound decision".

Aoife died at Crumlin Children's Hospital five days later.

Professor Maureen O'Sullivan carried out a post-mortem examination. She told the coroner's court that Aoife died due to a lack of oxygen to the brain as a result of near drowning. The pathologist said there was bruising to the teenager's body but in her opinion, there was no evidence of trauma that contributed to her death. Ms O'Sullivan said the fall into the water while being winched onto the helicopter was unlikely to have contributed to her demise.

She said the damage had been done during the initial immersion in the water. John Lawlor, CEO of Scouting Ireland, has told the coroner's court that a visit to the lighthouse at Hook Head is considered a low-risk activity, and very typical of a trip that scouts go on. He said no risk had ever been identified with trips to Hook Head and acknowledged that there was potential for children to go on the rocks near the lighthouse, but he said that was not part of the planned activity.

Wexford People

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