South Derry grandad speaks at Stormont on grandson’s blind cord death

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A SOUTH Derry man has given a heartfelt speech at Stormont about the death of his grandson who was accidentally strangled by a bedroom blind cord.

Martin Regan, from Bellaghy, was devastated when his 23-month-old grandson Dean Regan Russell died in January last year.

Little Dean became entangled in the window blind cord on January 2nd, 2011 and died five days later in hospital.

On Monday the devoted Granda delivered a keynote speech at the launch of Home Accident Prevention Northern Ireland’s (HAPNI) Home Accident Prevention Week, which supports a UK-wide campaign to prevent further tragedies.

Mr Regan was accompanied by members of Magherafelt District Council, including Home Safety Officer Joanne Robinson who will locally launch the Blind Cord Safety campaign on June 20th at the Council’s Ballyronan Road offices.

Speaking to the MAIL ahead of his emotional speech, Martin said: “Our world was torn apart when Dean died. One way of trying to re-build it is by helping to raise awareness of this little-known hazard to as many people as possible in Northern Ireland.

“It’s a matter very deep within my heart and I just don’t want another family to go through what my family has gone through.

“Before Dean had his accident, if anyone had said to me or Dean’s mum and dad, the danger of window cord blinds, none of us would have know what they were talking about,” said Martin.

“I suppose it’s an issue that unless it affects you, or you know the person it does affect, it is something you don’t think about it.

“A lot of people don’t want to hear about injury or death of a child. It pulls their heart strings, but they don’t want to know about it.

“I would be the same myself, if an ad came on TV about the children suffering in Africa, I can’t watch anything like that. A lot of people are like that when a child has an accident or a child dies.

But by not listening they don’t understand how the child died. If they were to listen to the whole story then it might trigger something and they can make something like a blind cord safe.”

The event was hosted by Michelle O’Neill MLA at Belfast’s Parliament Buildings and featured presentations by Sheila Merrill, public health adviser for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), and Andrew Chalk, from the British Blind and Shutter Association (BBSA), showed a short film.

RoSPA research shows that at least 22 children have died in blind cord accidents in the UK since 1999 (with 11 occurring since the beginning of 2010).

The initiative, which will run throughout the year, will also see HAPNI’s network of local groups distribute 25,000 advice leaflets and 2,000 posters throughout the year. In addition, RoSPA will provide three free workshops for families and people who work with young children. Interested groups will have a chance to book additional workshops for a small fee.

Magherafelt District Council will also kick start its window blind cord safety campaign in conjunction with HAP Magherafelt and District branch on Wednesday June 20th at 11am aimed at families, child minders health professionals and various other groups that can help to raise awareness in the community. Anyone interested in attending should contact Joanne Robinson, Home Safety Officer at the Council Offices on 02879397979. Joanne will also run an information stand in Meadowlane Shopping Centre on Thursday, June 21st from 11am to 3pm.

“As the Home Safety Officer I go out to family homes were there are children under the age of five, and time and time again when I raise the issue of blind cords they are so shocked,” Joanne told the MAIL.

“Many parents are alarmed that they hadn’t even considered the danger of blind cords. They often assume that if they don’t have blinds that reach the floor then they are not a risk which couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of the fatalities resulted from normal length blinds on a normal height window. I would urge parents to educate themselves on the various dangers posed by various blinds and fit the appropriate safety devices. As a mum of a one year old it is heartbreaking to think of the pain and suffering that Martin and his family are going through. I will continue to raise awareness around the dangers of blind cords to prevent other families from going through a similar experience.

RoSPA’s own research indicates that most accidental blind cord deaths happen in a bedroom, involving children aged between 16 and 36 months.

RoSPA advises people buying new blinds to look for designs that don’t have cords or chains - especially for a child’s bedroom. It also advises parents and carers not to put a child’s cot, bed, playpen or highchair near a window. Where there are blinds with cords or chains in the house, RoSPA advises that cords are kept tied up and out of the reach of young children, by using a cleat, cord tidy, clip or tie. For more information about the dangers of looped blind cords visit: www.rospa.com/blindcords/.

To download a free copy of the Make it Safe leaflet (produced in partnership with the BBSA) click on www.rospa.com/HomeSafety/Info/blind-cord-safety.pdf.