Coroner’s Jury rules misadventure in case of boy and grandmother who tried to save him
The Coroner’s Jury in a recent inquest heard that Joshua Murphy Jr., 2, died by drowning in a freshwater pool and his grandmother, Dorothy Hines, died from the effects of near drowning in her effort to rescue him.
Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik conducted the inquest and read statements from those witnesses who did not give evidence in person.
Joshua’s sister Renee, who was 10 at the time, provided the background to what happened on the afternoon of 18 July, 2011, at the Town and Country Complex on Smith Road in George Town.
Renee said her grandmother, whom she called Mama, was downstairs with Joshua, who was asleep on a couch. She went upstairs to read a book. Then the house was quiet. She looked out the window and saw someone in the swimming pool; it looked as if the person was wearing a purple shirt.
She went downstairs and didn’t see anyone, but the back door was open. She went to the front door, which was hard to unlock. When she opened the front door, she saw Mama in the pool.
She ran to the pool and saw Mama floating in the deep end. Mama was kind of bobbing, trying to get air. Renee asked where Joshua was and Mama told her Joshua drowned and was at the bottom of the pool.
“She told me to leave her to drown and I said no. Mama told me that Joshua opened the door and she did not know how he got out,” Renee related.
She said Mama then floated toward the side of the pool. Renee jumped in feet first and held Mama’s hand and managed to pull her toward the steps. Mama grabbed the rail and held on. She put her foot on the bottom step, but then started laying back in the water.
“I saw her eyes shut and then it looked like she fell asleep and then I started screaming,” Renee said. “I tried all I could to get her out of the pool. It was like she had too much water in her.” She ran to a neighbour’s apartment for help, but no one was home. She then ran into the house to call her mother, who was at work.
Renee’s mother, Joan Murphy, said Mrs. Hines was her mother and helped out with child care for Renee and Joshua as needed. She described Joshua as a frisky child who was into almost everything. She had safety measures all around the house.
That morning they had played and things were so good she was even late for work. She went home for lunch and when she left he was still having his nap.
When Renee called her she went home immediately, phoning for an ambulance along the way. When she arrived, she got her mother out of the pool and screamed for help. Neighbours assisted her in getting her son out from the deep end and they performed CPR on both Joshua and Mrs. Hines until the Emergency Medical Services arrived.
Mrs. Murphy afterwards stated: “It is my belief that my son fell into the pool and my mother tried to save him. Unfortunately she can’t swim.”
Herman Charlery, the property manager, said the complex has 18 apartments in three blocks. The pool was not fenced, but there were specific signs at the pool informing people how it was to be used. Some time after 4pm he installed a light at the pool and there was no one in the pool at the time. He then left the premises.
Around 4.20pm, neighbours heard sounds like children playing. About 15 minutes later, they heard screams.
Police logs showed a report received at 4.42pm.
Joshua was pronounced dead at hospital at 5.50pm. An autopsy report described him as a well-nourished child, with no recent or past signs of trauma, violence or fractures. The physical cause of death was drowning in a fresh water pool.
Mrs. Hines was admitted to hospital in an unconscious state and her vital signs were unsteady. Brain function tests were conducted the next day and on 21 July she was declared deceased. She was 68. An autopsy showed that her lungs weighed 1,650 grams; the expected weight would have been around 850 grams. The report by Dr. Shravana Jyoti listed the physical cause of death as anoxic/ischemic encephalopathy due to near drowning. The Medical Dictionary Online explains the medical term as a disorder characterised by a reduction in oxygen supply combined with reduced blood flow to the brain.
The jury adopted the pathologist’s findings and returned verdicts of misadventure.