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Mystery still surrounds death of siblings

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The deaths of a brother and sister in a city house seven months ago may have been a tragic accident – but with carbon monoxide poisoning ruled out, they will always remain unexplained.

At the Inquest in Galway Courthouse, Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, was unable to answer the questions posed by the family of Gavin Ridgard (50) and Patricia Kerr (58) who died at 27 Coogan Park, Newcastle, on February 9 last.

“There is nothing here to say that it was intentional – there was no note, and they didn’t tell anyone – it could have been something that went tragically wrong,” he said.

“The combination of tablets that they took stopped their breathing; it shut off part of the brain that makes us breathe, and they fell asleep. Their central nervous systems shut down.”

Gavin had moved in with his sister to the City Council-owned house three years earlier, and they were getting on well, the Inquest was told. They were last seen after the anniversary Mass for their mother, which was held in Westside Church on the evening of February 7.

Three days later, their sister, Joan, rang Patricia’s phone, but got no answer, which she said was unusual; Gavin’s phone was dead.

“I was surprised, but not overly worried,” she recalled.

However, she knew something was wrong when she got a call the following day, February 11, to say that Patricia had not turned up for an appointment.

She and her daughter went to their house, but there was no answer at the door. A Galway City Council worker managed to climb in an unlocked upstairs window and opened the front door. Gavin was found lying on the ground, and Patricia was sitting in a nearby chair. They were pronounced dead at 2.37pm.

Joan Ridgard told the Inquest that Patricia was making plans to move to the UK and live with her son in Kent, and had already started packing, and was due to book her flights that week.

She said that Gavin was upset about this, adding that the tenancy was in Patricia’s name, and that he would have to move out when she left.

Consultant pathologist, Dr Mary Casey, carried out a post mortem examination on the bodies. While she had initially suspected carbon monoxide poisoning – due to the presence of a gas heater in the room – the toxicology reports found that the presence of the poisonous gas in their systems was not at an excessive level.

There was also no alcohol detected, but there were different types of prescribed medication that would have had a depressive effect on their central nervous systems (CNS).

Both had consumed similar medications, although Patricia had a total of nine types – three more than her brother.

Dr Casey could not say for certain when they had died, as this was virtually impossible to detect after three days. However, she said it was reasonable to estimate that death had occurred 48 hours earlier, on February 9.

She concluded that the cause of death was cardio respiratory arrest, due to use of more than two therapeutic drugs that are CNS depressants.

“They interfere with the vital centres of the brain stem that control breathing and the nerves that stimulate the heart,” she explained.

Family members questioned whether or not this was suicide, as both had died in such similar circumstances. Neither Dr Casey nor the Coroner could say if their actions were accidental or intentional.

Inspector Mick O’Dwyer acknowledged that the family had been visited by a lot of tragedy recently, with the death of Gavin’s daughter, Gemma, in the same house nearly a year previously, in April 2014.

CITY TRIBUNE

GAA club’s tournament honours stalwart who died at just 28

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Pictured at the launch of the Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament which takes place in Mervue this Saturday. Back: Kevin Curran, Kevin Barrett, Robert Fitzgerald, Aidan Brady, Alan O'Donnell, Donal Murphy, Eanna O'Connell, Eoghan Frain, David Henry. Front: Aodhain Ó Conghaile, Liam O'Donnell, Rory Murphy, Fionn Fitzgerald and Michael Barrett.

The untimely passing of a city GAA stalwart six years ago is still deeply felt by the club he represented but he remains an inspiration to young up-and-coming footballers who will be displaying their skills this weekend.

The Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament for under-age teams will take place in St James’ GAA grounds at Mervue tomorrow, Saturday, when many memories of a great young clubman will be exchanged.

Darragh, from Lurgan Park in Renmore, was just 28 years of age when he lost his battle with cancer in 2016. Since then his beloved club has been organising a tournament for young footballers that’s proving immensely popular.

For tomorrow’s event, the St James club will entertain local teams including St Michael’s, Salthill-Knocknacarra, Killanin and an Cheathrú Rua, as well as Kiltane (Bangor Erris) and Elphin-Ballinameen from North Roscommon.

It is a nine-a-side tournament, which takes place from 11am to 5pm, and will involve Under-11 teams who will compete against each other during the day.

The fact that Darragh’s late father, Tom Frain Senior, hailed from Roscommon means that GAA support for the event is coming from both counties – this makes it extra special, as well as adding to the profile of the tournament.

Best friend and one of the event’s main organisers, another St James stalwart David Henry explained that this was the sixth year of the tournament and that Darragh would be very pleased that his name was being associated with the development of under-age football.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Too many cafés’ as city retail continues to decline

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Barber Tom Nally outside his premises.

The changing face of Galway city centre is a source of concern to those who say it reflects a decline for people in terms of retail choices.

Those who regret the loss of several long-standing family-run operations in the city in recent years don’t believe that what has replaced them has enhanced the appearance of Shop Street, in particular.

“We are looking at a proliferation of coffee shops, bookies and mobile phone outlets in their place,” observed long-standing city centre businessman Tom Nally.

Cllr Niall McNelis agreed there were far too many coffee shops in the city centre and believed that anything that has been zoned retail by the Council should remain retail.

The Labour Councillor said a proper retail strategy needed to be adopted and some of the ‘big-name brands’ needed to be encouraged into the centre of Galway to lure shoppers into town.

Meanwhile, popular barber Tom Nally regretted the number of family operations that have ceased trading in the recent past.

“It is sad to see the long-established family businesses in the city centre going and it would be great to say that what is replacing them will enhance our streets . . . but unfortunately this is not the case,” he added.

Mr Nally who has been operating out of his High Street premises for almost 50 years, said the number of unoccupied premises in an around the city centre was a new phenomenon.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

State cracks down on quick-buck landlords

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New measures to clamp down on illegal short-term lets in the city will kick in next month, in an attempt to tackle mounting pressure on the rental market.

From September 1, sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com will no longer be allowed to advertise short-term rentals if the correct planning permission is not in place.

The measure seeks to strengthen laws introduced in 2019 which state that the use of a property for short-term letting for longer than 90 days in a rent-pressure zone requires permission from the local authority.

City Councillor Niall Murphy (Green) said the move follows on from an objection he lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

“The ASAI said it couldn’t be expected to police these ads so the websites like Airbnb were off the hook. But after September, they will have to ensure that those advertising on their sites have planning permission,” he said.

The proliferation of short-term lets in the city has been a contentious issue for a number of years, with scores of holiday leases available at the same time as city residents are battling it out for an extremely limited number of rental properties.

This week, almost 400 short-term lets were available on the leading website, Airbnb, while just 19 homes were up for rent on Daft.ie.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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