Page last updated at 18:29 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Child died waving to grandmother

Muireann McLaughlin [Pic: Central Scotland News Agency]
Muireann was described as a "bright, loving child" by her mother

A toddler died after being hanged by the cord of a window blind as she tried to wave goodbye to her grandmother, a court has heard.

Two-year-old Muireann McLaughlin climbed up to wave out of her brother's bedroom window when she slipped, knocking herself unconscious.

She then fell into the looped cord of the roller blind, which killed her in about 20 seconds.

The fatal accident inquiry into her death continues.

The inquiry, at Alloa Sheriff Court, was told that Muireann, her brother Cian, four, and Alfie, six, had been looked after by their grandmother Beryl Searles, 61, in the family home in Menstrie, Clackmannanshire on 5 February last year.

Her father Angus, 40, had been at work and mother Kate, 36, at an ante-natal check.

I went into Cian's bedroom and saw her hanging, facing me. She was caught in the blind cord
Angus McLaughlin

Mr McLaughlin, an NHS radiography manager, arrived home and Mrs Searles left the house.

Mrs Searles told the inquiry: "As I walked out I could hear Cian and Muireann playing upstairs, and then I saw Cian waving from the window.

"Six minutes later I got a call from Angus. He just said 'Muireann's dead'."

Mr McLaughlin said he first knew something was wrong when Cian asked: "Why isn't Muireann talking to me?"

He said: "I went into Cian's bedroom and saw her hanging, facing me. She was caught in the blind cord.

"I ran over and lifted her out of the noose and laid her on the floor.

"Cian was standing back, rather startled. I checked for vital signs and there was no respiration or pulse, so I started to perform CPR.

"Her pupils were fixed and dilated, and there was no heartbeat or breathing."

'Significant impact'

Mrs McLaughlin said she was pregnant with Muireanne's new sister Ania and was returning from an ante-natal appointment when she walked in on the scene.

She called for an ambulance, and Mr McLaughlin carried on with CPR on his daughter for 40 minutes, even after paramedics had arrived.

However, she was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Stirling Royal Infirmary.

Dr Alan Howison, consultant paediatric pathologist at Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow, said: "It seems Muireann was trying to copy her brother in looking out of the window. It appears she was standing on something and lost her footing.

"It also seems there was a significant impact on her jaw, which would have either knocked her unconscious or stunned her.

I had never heard of a similar accident before. It never crossed my mind that this could happen
Graham Paterson
Alloa Blind Company

"She subsequently succumbed to the compression on her neck - it could have been as quickly as 15 to 20 seconds."

Mr McLaughlin, a founder member of Scots folk band Deaf Shepherd, said he and his wife had called for and insisted on the inquiry, which is being held at Alloa Sheriff Court, because he wanted to highlight the dangers of looped blind cords.

He called at the time for a US-style ban on looped blind cords, which safety groups believe kill two children every year in the UK.

He said in evidence: "I feel that what happened to Muireann is not right for any parent to have to go through.

"I bought the blind in good faith and assumed it would be a product fit and safe for home use."

Under Scots law, fatal accident inquiries are only mandatory for deaths at work or in custody.

Mrs McLaughlin told presiding sheriff David Mackie that Muireann was "a very bright, very loving child".

She added: "Muireann's was not the first death from being caught in a blind cord and we feel that public awareness of the dangers should be raised."

Graham Paterson, 64, owner of the Alloa Blind Company who supplied the blind that Muireann became tangled in, told the inquiry his company had changed the way it made its products since the accident.

He said: "We used to use metal clips to hold the blind cords together, but we have changed to plastic ones now. They come apart under less force.

"I changed the clips because I didn't want something like this to happen ever again.

"I had never heard of a similar accident before. It never crossed my mind that this could happen."

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SEE ALSO
Parents talk of 'beautiful girl'
06 Feb 08 |  Tayside and Central
Father calls for looped blind ban
12 Feb 08 |  Tayside and Central
House debates looped blind cords
11 Mar 08 |  Tayside and Central
Funeral for blind death toddler
13 Feb 08 |  Tayside and Central
Calls to ban toddler death blinds
27 Feb 08 |  Tayside and Central

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