Boy, eight, died after inhaling helium gas from a balloon bought for his birthday – as his parents warn of the dangers following inquest into tragedy

Luke Ramone Harper died after being overcome by helium in a balloon
He was bought the 8-shaped balloon to celebrate his eighth birthday last year
His family have warned others to make sure to dispose of helium products

The parents of a young Dublin boy who died after inhaling helium from a birthday balloon have warned other families to make sure they dispose of any material containing the gas to prevent a similar tragedy in future.

Luke Ramone Harper, 8, from Clonlara Road, Ringsend, Dublin 4, suffered fatal brain injuries after being overcome by helium after he placed a balloon in the shape of the figure ‘8’ that had been bought for his birthday party a week earlier over his head.

The young boy was pronounced dead at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin on April 2 last year.

His mother, Hilary McSweeney, told an inquest at Dublin District Coroner’s Court yesterday that Luke had been playing upstairs the previous afternoon.

She said her son’s body was limp as she pulled the balloon off his face and rushed him outside in the back garden to get fresh air. She described discovering him lying face down on the ground upstairs in an unresponsive state with a balloon completely over his head.

Ms McSweeney said the balloon had been floating in the sitting room for the previous week after his birthday party and was partially deflated.

The inquest heard she and Luke’s father, Martin Harper, gave their son chest compressions while they waited for emergency services to arrive.

After being told by doctors the following day that it was time to say goodbye, Ms McSweeney said they took mementoes of Luke through his hair, handprint and footprint.

‘I felt numb, heartbroken and in a pain you can’t imagine,’ she told the inquest.

In response to queries from the coroner, Cróna Gallagher, Ms McSweeney said her son had always had helium balloons for his parties but there had never been a similar incident.

Ms McSweeney said she knew that Luke, who had autism and had been diagnosed with ADHD, was ‘in trouble’ by the amount of time paramedics had spent working on him before taking him by ambulance to hospital. While in hospital, she heard that he had suffered a cardiac arrest.

Mr Harper said his son would have been totally unaware that helium was sometimes inhaled by older children because of the way it changes their voice.

He said the family believed that Luke was just trying to reinflate the balloon and he ‘blacked out’.

A post-mortem found Luke died as a result of a lack of oxygen to the brain due to a cardiac arrest which had been caused by the inhalation of helium from a partially-deflated balloon.

Based on the evidence, Dr Gallagher returned a verdict of accidental death.

After the hearing, the boy’s parents said they were anxious for other families to be aware of the potential danger of helium balloons and to dispose of them correctly.

 

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