Rel­a­tives share im­pact of trau­matic deaths

■ Im­pact of sud­den deaths on fam­i­lies re­called in doc­u­men­tary

Irish Examiner - - News - Lynne Kelle­her

In a com­pelling doc­u­men­tary about coroners’ in­quests, fam­i­lies have opened up about the sud­den, un­ex­plained, and vi­o­lent deaths of loved-ones.

In­quests give griev­ing rel­a­tives answers in the af­ter­math of trau­matic fa­tal­i­ties, and while 10,000 deaths a year are re­ported to the coroner’s of­fice, a fifth of them go through an in­quest.

In Doc­u­men­tary On One’s: Cause of Death, which was recorded over a year and a half, pre­sen­ter Ruairi McKenna, speaks to three fam­i­lies about sud­den deaths.

In the RTÉ Ra­dio One doc­u­men­tary, the re­cently re­tired coroner for south and west Kerry, Ter­ence Casey, told how one court sit­ting prompted him to speak out about the tragic in­ci­dence of sui­cide in the county.

“I re­mem­ber sit­ting in one of my courts, where six out of eight of my cases were sui­ci­dal. To look up at the gallery of peo­ple, par­ents, friends, brothers, sis­ters, and to see hurt in their faces, it hit me.

“It made me first start talking about sui­cide and ask­ing peo­ple to take more care, and take more at­ten­tion of the help­less out there.”

Kil­lar­ney, Co Kerry cou­ple, Den­nis and Marie O’Car­roll, and their four chil­dren, were dev­as­tated by the sui­cide of their youngest child, Nathan, at the age of 14, in De­cem­ber 2007.

Mr O’Car­roll said the teenager was “full of the joys of life” and would have tourists stay­ing in the fam­ily guest­house “eat­ing out of his hand”.

He said his son had been hav­ing mi­nor prob­lems in school, which his par­ents thought had been re­solved, but when Mr O’Car­roll had to spend a pe­riod in hos­pi­tal, the prob­lems re­oc­curred.

“For some rea­son, he went into a dark cloud none of us spot­ted, his fa­ther said.

“Be­tween fu­ner­als and Christ­mas and ev­ery­thing, we just wanted to go into a cor­ner and hide,” Mr O’Car­roll said, but he told the doc­u­men­tary he never wanted the cause of his son’s death hid­den.

“It was is­sued ‘death by sui­cide’, which I think was the proper thing, be­cause, for years, this has been hid­den un­der the ta­ble.”

He said Pi­eta House’s an­nual Dark­ness Into Light walk — known as Nathan’s Walk in Kil­lar­ney — has raised €300,000 in the last five years.

“It can hap­pen to any­one. We never thought it would come to our house. Why hide it? Try to get peo­ple talking and get younger peo­ple and older peo­ple to get the help.”

Mag­gie Bon­ner had to deal with learn­ing that her part­ner, Michael Jack­son, had un­in­ten­tion­ally driven over her fa­ther on a dark, coun­try road. The young cou­ple were both 24 when her fa­ther, Frankie Bon­ner, 65, died on a ru­ral road be­tween Bal­ly­cas­tle and Kil­lala, Co Mayo, in the early hours of the morn­ing.

Mr Bon­ner had been out so­cial­is­ing and had a habit of walk­ing home. Mr Jack­son was driv­ing to an early morn­ing job, in tan­dem with a work­mate in a van be­hind, when he no­ticed some­thing ly­ing on the dark road ahead. He tried to avoid it, but felt a slight bump and later dis­cov­ered he had driven over Ms Bon­ner’s fa­ther.

In the ra­dio doc­u­men­tary, she tells how she went to the scene to be with her part­ner and his work­mate, af­ter Mr Bon­ner des­per­ately rang her to tell her he had hit a man on the road, and the night­mare re­al­i­sa­tion it was her fa­ther.

Doc­u­men­tary On One: Cause of Death, will be aired on RTÉ Ra­dio One to­day, at 1pm, and will be re­peated to­mor­row, at 7pm.

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