Baby died after he was left in hot car by foster mother

A BABY boy who was on holidays with his foster parents died after he was left for three hours in a parked car.

Nathan Ryan was 14 months old when he died at a caravan park near Spanish Point beach in west Clare on July 29, 2010.

The child was on holidays with his foster parents, Fiona and Liam Doheny of Toureen, Ballysimon, Limerick at the time.

Fiona's mother Maureen Burke told an inquest yesterday Nathan's death wasn't due to neglect.

In her deposition, Mrs Burke said: "It wasn't out of neglect. Nathan was well taken care of by my daughter, Fiona."

She said that Nathan was a 'delicate child'. Recalling the events of the day, Ms Doheny told the inquest that Nathan was unsettled and she decided to bring him for a drive and placed him in the car seat in the back of the car at the caravan park.

However, when she saw that Nathan was fast asleep, Ms Doheny said she decided to sit out with her mother, Mrs Burke on two deck chairs 10ft from the car and watch Nathan from there.

She said: "I left the driver's door open with the window of the door slightly open. I checked Nathan three times while he was in the car."

Mother-of-two Ms Doheny said: "At 4pm, I went into the mobile home to heat a saucepan of milk for him and when I checked Nathan in the car, he wasn't right. He was still and I tried to wake him, but he remained still. I called Liam twice and screamed. I dialled 999."

Frantic

Two local doctors and a paramedic made frantic efforts to revive Nathan using CPR over the next 90 minutes before he was pronounced dead at 5.30pm.

Montessori teacher Ms Doheny told the inquest that she and Liam had fostered children on behalf of the HSE for the last five or six years and that Nathan was in their full-time care since January 1, 2010.

Nathan's biological mother, Limerick woman Deirdre Byrnes (pictured), also attended the inquest.

In her evidence, State pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy said that the child was very well cared for and that there was no evidence of trauma.

Dr Cassidy said that where the child was found must be taken into account when considering the most probable cause of death.

She said that at 14 months, Nathan was at the outer range of cot death, however, he was a small child and therefore may have increased risk of death due to sudden infant death syndrome.

She said: "However, he was found collapsed in the back of a car on a hot day, which raises the possibility of potential lethal hyperthermia in a vulnerable individual...

"In a young and undeveloped individual, whose central temperature regulation is not fully developed, a child may be less able to cope with a sudden rise in temperature."

Dr Cassidy confirmed that Gardai had reconstructed the temperatures in the car on the day. They found that they would not have risen to a lethal level and would have been only a few degrees above the outside temperature.

Clare County Coroner Isobel O'Dea concluded that heat was a factor in the tragedy. She recorded that the cause of death was sudden unexplained death in an infant with hyperthermia as a contributory factor.

jlast@herald.ie