Family hears ‘difficult details’ of Raychel’s death

Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast    3/2/05'Raychel Ferguson whose death is one of three deaths of children currently under investigation at a public inquiry headed by John O'Hara QC and being held at The Hilton Hotel in Belfast.
Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast 3/2/05'Raychel Ferguson whose death is one of three deaths of children currently under investigation at a public inquiry headed by John O'Hara QC and being held at The Hilton Hotel in Belfast.

Raychel Ferguson’s family have heard some details of their nine year-old daughter’s death for the first time as they prepare to mark what would have been her 21st birthday.

Mum Marie Ferguson yesterday laid flowers on Raychel’s grave following the opening of clinical evidence on the Primary 5 schoolgirl’s death at an inquiry into the tragic case on Friday.

Raychel’s death and that of two other children - Adam Strain and Claire Roberts - are being examined by the Inquiry into Hyponatraemia-related Deaths.

It’s also investigating events following the death of Lucy Crawford and Connor Mitchell - both of whom died in hospital.

The inquiry at Banbridge courthouse on Friday heard that a catalogue of flaws and a lack of communication contributed to Raychel’s death following an operation to remove her appendix at Altnagelvin Hospital on June 10, 2001.

She died after being transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

Senior Counsel for the inquiry, Monye Anyadike-Danes QC said investigations revealed confusion among medical staff at Altnagelvin around the management of fluid administered to Raychel. She said that a report by an expert had found that nobody appeared to have taken ownership of Raychel’s fluid supervision.

The inquiry further heard that no blood tests were carried out on Raychel, no doctor saw her more than once and that the senior surgeon in charge didn’t know about the schoolgirl’s case until after she’d died.

In his opening address, Stephen Quinn QC, for the Ferguson family, said that Raychel’s parents felt she “was killed by the hospital”.

“They put their trust in Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry but it is clear to them and as I will explain, that Raychel would not have died but for the treatment that she received at Altnagelvin Hospital.”

He added that “even the most basic of investigations” would demonstrate to the Hospital authorities that there were “errors and omissions in the treatment of Raychel”.

“This family would be celebrating Raychel’s 21st birthday on Monday . . . had mistakes not been made, had concerns been addressed and had someone in authority stepped back and looked at the history of deaths from Hyponatraemia in Northern Ireland during the years before Raychel’s death.”

Friday’s hearing was difficult and emotional for Raychel’s parents Marie and Ray, and their three sons Stephen, Jason and Jamie.

Marie told the ‘Sunday Journal’ yesterday: “We’ve heard things that we didn’t know before and it was difficult for us. All we want is for the truth to be known about Raychel’s death.”

The hearing resumes on Tuesday.