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Case against Scouting Ireland over girl’s death settled

The mother of a 14-year-old girl who died after being swept out to sea during a scouting trip more than eight years ago has settled her legal action against Scouting Ireland.

Anne Winterlich said she was disgusted that Scouting Ireland had only admitted liability this week for the accident in December 2015, after which her 14-year-old daughter, Aoife died.

The judge in Dublin Circuit Civil Court said the organisation fell short by not accepting liability sooner, adding to the huge burden on the family.

The court heard this was a “ghastly tragedy”. Senior Counsel, Finbarr Fox told the judge that Aoife Winterlich had been part of an outing to Waterford, organised by Scouting Ireland on December 6 2015.

Somewhere along the way, he said, an “ad hoc” decision was made to visit Hook Head in Wexford.

“Crucially,” he said, during lunchtime the teenagers were allowed to “roam around the place without guidance”.

They made their way to the perimeter wall and onto the shoreline.

Anne Winterlich said her daughter had her bright future snatched away due to the fatal decision made by Scouting Ireland

He said there was no assessment of the risks, no guidance and no warning. Aoife was swept out to sea.

Although she was rescued and brought to hospital, she passed away four days later.

Her inquest heard that she lost her footing on rocks and went into the water.

It also heard of the attempts by other scouts to save her, including a fellow scout, Philip Byrne who held on to her until the Air Accident crew arrived.

Mr Fox said the case against Scouting Ireland was “unanswerable” but they had maintained a full defence until this week.

He said the tragedy of the family was compounded as Aoife’s father died shortly afterwards.

Mr Fox said the case had been extremely distressing for the family – not just its nature he said, but the manner in which it had been fought.

He said it should not have taken Scouting Ireland eight years to acknowledge that what happened should not have happened and had happened on their watch.

The case was settled for a total of just over €54,000.

Judge Christopher Callan said this had been an unbelievable tragedy for the family.

He said the scouts were a great organisation but in this instance, they had fallen short by not accepting liability soon enough.

For the case to have lasted so long was a “huge burden” the family had had to carry, he said.

The judge said he hoped today’s proceedings brought closure to this part of their lives, but he said the tragedy would live with them forever.

Outside court, Mrs Winterlich accompanied by her three sons, said Aoife had her bright future snatched away due to the fatal decision made by Scouting Ireland.

Storm Desmond had been sweeping the country bringing winds of 80 miles per hour.

She said the children had been left unsupervised for a significant period leading to Aoife being swept into the sea at Hook Head.

Mrs Winterlich said thousands of parents entrusted scout leaders with the safety of their children but Scouting Ireland had breached that trust on that day.

She said Aoife was kind, caring and full of life with a warm smile and an infectious laugh.

Mrs Winterlich added that it was very hard get over the death of a child, knowing that it was completely preventable.

She said the heartbreak caused by Scouting Ireland’s negligence could not be overstated and accountability was required to ensure such tragedies were prevented in the future.

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