*The Galway native fell to his death at the Cliffs of Moher. 

A coroner’s verdict into the death of a 25 year old Galway patient who fell to his death at the Cliffs of Moher has been stalled.
At the inquest into the death of Jamie Costello, Clare County Coroner, Isobel O’Dea stated that she would seek direction from the High Court as to whether she can take into account the contents of a HSE commissioned external report into the case before she delivers her verdict.

At the two day inquest in Kilrush last week, lawyer for the Costello family, Damien Tansey SC stated that a “catastrophic systems failure” occurred at a Galway mental health unit that allowed ‘high risk’ Jamie Costello leave unaccompanied on two consecutive days “with devastating consequences for his family”.

Mr Tansey said that everyone at the unit treating Jamie knew that he was there because he had attempted suicide on two occasions earlier in 2019 and knew that he was high risk.

On October 1st 2019, Mr Costello jumped off the Cliffs of Moher hours after leaving the Mental Health Unit at University Hospital Galway where he was a voluntary patient.

Ms O’Dea said that it is ‘accepted’ that a catastrophic systems failure took place.

In a deposition, an eye witness at the Cliffs of Moher thought Mr Costello was taking part in a video before realising that he had jumped to his death.

On October 1st, Jamie Costello left the unit at 12.30pm on October 1st 2019 but he was only discovered to be missing at 4.25pm when his mother, Denise called to take Jamie out for a number of hours on accompanied time away from the unit.

Jamie’s father, Galway GP, Dr Alan Costello of Ballinduff, Cornadulla contacted Gardaí believing that his son was en route to the Cliffs of Moher and Gardai told Dr Costello that a man was seen jumping off the Cliffs of Moher earlier at 3.45pm.

Mr Tansey said that Jamie’s parents, Dr Alan Costello and Denise Costello “are haunted and disturbed” that there appears to be “a plan to deny” by the nurses on duty who all deny on both days that they received a call from security at the unit to allow Mr Costello to leave the unit unaccompanied.

Mr Tansey said: “All of the nurses on duty deny taking the call from security on September 30th and all of them deny taking the call from security on October 1st when this horrific tragedy takes place.

Mr Tansey continued: “On its face, when the same event takes place on two consecutive days, where you have exactly the same report and all nurses deny taking the call, it is haunting and disturbing to my clients and it looks like a plan to deny.”

He added: “It looks like a design between people to deny – that is what it looks like.”

However, counsel for the State Claims Agency (SCA) and HSE, Luán ó Braonáin SC said that “the conclusion Mr Tansey has reached in his submission is one that cannot be reasonably inferred from the evidence.”

In her response, Ms O’Dea stated: “It is beyond the realm of this forum to try to establish if indeed there ever was a design or plan. I have no reason to suspect there has been and I am not going there.”

Ms O’Dea told Mr Tansey: “I am not holding with you on that – I am taking each nurse at what they say.”

In the High Court last December, the HSE issued an apology to the Costello family for the standard of care provided to their son as part of a High Court approved settlement and on behalf of his client, Mr ó Braonáin SC repeated the contents of the apology to the Costellos at the first day of the inquest.

Ms O’Dea made the decision to adjourn the inquest to allow her refer the issue of the HSE commissioned report’s status to the High Court despite Mr Tansey contending that going to the High Court on the issue “is like taking a sledge-hammer to a nut”.

He said: “It is unnecessary.”

Amongst other items, the report examines how Mr Costello was able to leave the unit unaccompanied and it is currently in draft form.

Mr ó Braonáin said that the external report is not evidence that is admissible as far as the inquest should be concerned. He said: “The evidence has been heard.”

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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