Family welcome new inquest into death of child examined in Hyponatraemia Inquiry

The family of a nine-year-old girl whose death was examined in the Hyponatraemia Inquiry have welcomed a fresh inquest into her death.

Raychel Ferguson, nine, from Coshquin in Co Londonderry, was one of five children whose hospital treatment was examined in the long-running probe.

She died on June 10, 2001, at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Belfast shortly after transfer from Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry following an appendectomy.

Her death resulted from hyponatraemia brought on by fluid therapy which had not properly replaced her sodium levels.

Inquiry chair Mr Justice O’Hara found in 2018 that Raychel’s death, and the deaths of Adam Strain and Claire Roberts, were the result of “negligent care”.

The deaths of Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell were also examined during the inquiry.

His damning report found four of the five deaths could have been avoided.

Derry courthouse on Tuesday heard that the Attorney General for Northern Ireland directed that a new inquest be held into Raychel’s death.

Presiding over the first pre-inquest review hearing, Coroner Joe McCrisken said Raychel’s family had waited a long time for a new inquest.

A barrister representing the Ferguson family thanked the coroner for coming to Derry, describing that as “symbolically very important to Mr and Mrs Ferguson”.

“They look forward to co-operating, of course, fully with you and want all parties to co-operate fully with you, and that you receive all information gained at public expense and that no-one impedes or seeks to restrain you or not to provide to you all information as happened before,” he said.

“We express great gratitude and appreciation. Thank you.”

Michael Chambers, counsel for the coroner, said a proposed list of witnesses and timeframe for the inquest had been prepared and suggested legal representatives for the family and for the Western Health Trust respond to it.

The date for another reviewing hearing was set for February 21.

A date and venue for the full inquest has not yet been agreed.

Mr McCrisken referenced pressures on courts associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re hoping to meet with the Presiding Coroner, who is a High Court judge, next week to discuss those issues and those pressures, and hopefully a resolution can be found that assists everyone particularly families who are waiting on inquest hearings,” he added.

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