Council found negligent in Chloe?s death

By RENEE REDMOND

CASINO woman Heather Donoghue has successfully sued Richmond Valley Council over the drowning of toddler Chloe Ensby.

The Lismore Civil Court yesterday found the council negligent after building a playground close to an unfenced pond.

The three-year-old died after falling into the pond in 2001.

The council was ordered to pay Ms Donoghue $26,000 in damages after she claimed she developed post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident.

Police facts said that soon after the playground was completed, a number of complaints about the pond were received by the council.

It is alleged council estimated the cost of moving the playground at $4500.

The matter was listed for consideration in budget papers in the 1998, 1999 and 200/2001 budgets, but did not receive funding.

Police said Chloe Ensby lived near the playground and on April 7, 2001, she was throwing rocks into the pond under the supervision of her seven-year-old brother.

She then walked into the pond and fell over in a spot which was too deep. Her brother raised the alarm and Ms Donoghue (a neighbour of Chloe) watched her being dragged out of the pond by a family member.

She then administered CPR before the ambulance arrived.

Chloe was taken to Casino Hospital and then Lismore Base Hospital, where she stayed until 6pm that night.

She was then flown to Royal Brisbane Hospital and died two days later.

Ms Donoghue's solicitor, James Fuggle, said her motivation to sue Richmond Valley Council over the death was not money.

"The decision vindicates the position of local residents who lobbied the council for years about the danger which the pond and playground represented," he said.

"It's tragic that the council waited until the death of a child before taking any action and it's very sad the council refused to accept any responsibility for its actions whatsoever."

Mr Fuggle said the council would also pay Ms Donoghue's legal costs, which he estimated would be in excess of $10,000.

The council now has 28 days to appeal against the decision.

Richmond Valley Council general manager Brian Wilkinson said he was disappointed with the decision and would consider the judgment with solicitors.

"It's too early to say if we'll be taking further action or appealing the decision," he said.

"The court ruled negligence, but we don't necessarily agree with that."

Mr Wilkinson said public liability insurance would cover the costs.



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