Finding leaves family gutted
THE parents of drowned Banora Point toddler Travis McCarron felt they received no justice when the findings of an inquest into their son's death was handed down yesterday.
New South Wales deputy coroner Paul McMahon's only two recommendations were for Tweed Shire Council to fence the playground and review safety signage at Russell Way Park in Tweed Heads South where the toddler died.
Travis drowned in a retention pond at the park on April 11, 2008, aged 21 months.
He had been on excursion to a nearby playground with Tweed Shire Family Day Care Association.
Mr McMahon delivered his findings to the Tweed Heads Local Court via a live video feed from Sydney.
The McCarron family were disappointed no harder recommendations were made supporting police prosecution of Donna De Venny, Travis' carer on the day of his death.
Hannah's Foundation chief executive officer Andrew Plint, speaking on behalf of the family, said the McCarrons had been “gutted” by the outcome.
(Hannah's Foundation is a drowning prevention, awareness and support charity.)
“The family came here to hear that justice system speak for them, but it was only a whisper,” Mr Plint said.
“The only people who got any answers were the council.”
Mr Plint said the family was hoping for recommendations for WorkCover and police to charge Ms De Venny, who was registered as a carer with Tweed Shire Family Day Care Association.
“The family wanted a recommendation to the director of pub- lic prosecution for criminal charges against her,” Mr Plint said.
“If this was any other work-place accident, WorkCover would have charged those responsible.”
During the deliberation of his findings, the coroner said there was no evidence of a risk assessment being completed on the park.
“That should have been a recommendation. The coroner had the power to make that,” Mr Plint said.
“There are thousands of kids in day care in NSW and this inquiry has ramifications for all of them.”
Mr McMahon said it was not his role to attribute blame, but to help prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
He said there were several reasons for his recommendation of playground fencing, including the park's high usage by children and added that a fence would not be costly.
During his findings, Mr McMahon said it was obvious that fewer children being cared for on the day would have allowed for greater supervision.
“It may well be that had Ms De Venny not been caring for the five children that she was on that day, this tragedy might not have occurred,” Mr McMahon said.
“This is however a matter for speculation.
“It might be that it would be appropriate to reduce the number of children that family day carers are authorised to care for, how- ever this inquest is not the appropriate vehicle for determining that matter.
Mr McMahon thanked the McCarron family for their patience and co-operation with the inquest.
“The death of a child of 21 months is always a tragedy. Such a death will result in considerable grief and anxiety for parents, family and other loved ones,” he said.
“In this respect, Travis' death is no different.
“It has wider ramifications, however, because of the circumstances in which it occurred.”
The McCarron family left court shortly after the hearing, clutching dolls made in Travis' honour and followed by friends bearing photographs of Travis.
The inquest began in late April in Murwillumbah and continued in Tweed Heads over the course of a week.
More time was needed to hear all the evidence and the inquest continued in Sydney in the first week of August.
Late last night, Tweed Shire Council general manager Mike Rayner said Council will consider the fencing of playground equipment at Russell Way Park at the next meeting on October 20.
“Council has been undertaking a risk assessment of all its parks and we will consider the coroner's recommendations in conjunction with this associated shire-wide risk assessment,” Mr Rayner said.
The Department of Community Services (DoCS) has already charged the Tweed Shire Family Day Care Association with three breaches of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protect) Act 1998.
The criminal case will be heard on November 8 at Downing Centre court houses in Sydney.
DoCS previously said Mr McMahon's findings would be taken into account.
Tweed Shire Family Day Care Association has since been taken over by the Lismore and District Family Day Care Association.