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'Beautiful little girl' Family of tragic baby Mia O’Connell thank public for support after 'heartbreaking loss'

Baby girl Mia O’Connell laid to rest today as friends and neighbours launch fundraiser for distraught family


Gardaí at the house in Clashmore, Co Waterford, where Mia O'Connell died. PA

Gardaí at the house in Clashmore, Co Waterford, where Mia O'Connell died. PA

Gardaí at the house in Clashmore, Co Waterford, where Mia O'Connell died. PA

A relative of three-month-old Mia O’Connell, who was killed by a pet dog in her home, has thanked the public for their support on behalf of her bereaved family as the baby girl is laid to rest today.

Diane Wood, who is an aunt of Mia’s mother Ella Wood, said she never thought something so devastating would happen in her family.

"[You think] it never happens to you, it’s always somebody else and to have it hit home and to see the tragedy and the loss is heartbreaking… words can't describe it,” she said on WLR FM.

"From all the family we just want to say thank you, to the paramedics that were on the scene and the rapid response unit in Youghal that went, a massive thank you.”

It came as Diane, along with friends and neighbours launched a fundraising appeal for Mia’s family.

The appeal, which aims to raise €2,000, was unveiled by friends and neighbours of the family as little Mia O'Connell was set to be laid to rest after a private prayer ceremony.

Mia’s great-aunt said she has no doubt that emergency services did all they could to try and save the little girl.

The baby’s parents, Ella Woods and Rhys O’Connell got engaged just a couple of months ago, and Diane said they were very much looking forward to their life together after having their first child.

"She was such a beautiful, beautiful little girl,” Diane said.

“She was always laughing and smiling and she brought so much joy to her parents, she was just a beautiful little girl and she is going to be so missed.

"[Ella] is in her 20s, she’s a first-time mum. She was looking forward to the first smiles and the first words and sitting up, everything a young mum looks forward to.”

Diane said Mia was “taken away so devastatingly” and that the tragedy has shocked the community.

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“This is when the country comes together and you can really feel the warmth,” she said. “I thank everyone for their support and well wishes.”

Mia, who was born last February, had a special prayer service at the family home in Clashmore, Co Waterford on Tuesday evening after her remains were released back to the family on completion of a post-mortem examination at Cork University Hospital CUH).

A second prayer service was held in her memory at a funeral home in Youghal in east Cork on Wednesday before the infant's burial in a local cemetery.

The post mortem examination revealed the infant died from severe head and neck injuries consistent with being attacked by a dog while she was asleep in a baby basket in the double bed of her mother's bedroom.

Mia was discovered in a critical condition in a property at Clashmore, Co Waterford, in the early hours of Monday.

The horrific discovery was made by her aunt who had gone to check on her in an upstairs bedroom around 2am.

It is unclear how the dog gained access to the upstairs bedroom.

Other family members including her grandparents Noirin and Barry were present in the house and the horrified relatives immediately raised the alarm.

Paramedics and Gardaí raced to the scene and rushed the infant to Cork University Hospital.

Tragically, little Mia was pronounced dead at CUH at 3am on Monday, shortly after she was admitted.

Gardaí confirmed that the dog involved was destroyed on Monday evening.

The dog was then examined as part of the investigation which will see a file prepared for the Cork Coroner.

The animal - a family pet - was a husky-terrier cross.

A key element of the Garda inquiry into the tragedy is the background to the dog involved in the attack.

Mia's devastated mother, Ella Wood, was being comforted by family, friends and neighbours.

The scale of the tragedy was exacerbated by the fact her partner and Mia's father, Rhys O'Connell, was away from home on Monday.

Family members have appealed for privacy while they deal with the appalling tragedy.

Friends and family have now launched a GoFundMe appeal to help with funeral costs.

Diane Wood explained: "We have all heard [how] baby Mia lost her life in a tragic accident. I have put this GoFundMe together to help pay for baby Mia's send-off and to take some burden from the parents.

“Thank you to everyone who donates."

The family home was sealed off following the tragedy for a forensic examination by Garda technical experts.

Dungarvan Gardaí are treating the incident as a tragic accident.

They will now prepare a file for the Cork Coroner for an inquest expected to be held in 2022.

Gardaí have appealed for anyone with information on the tragedy to contact them to assist their inquiries.

Clashmore locals expressed their deep shock at the tragedy.

The family involved are originally from Youghal but had moved to the quiet west Waterford village to live in a relatively newly developed estate of terraced houses.

Waterford Council member Councillor Seamus O'Donnell said the entire community was left numbed by the tragedy.

"This is a very unusual thing to happen," he said.

"I spoke to a woman who said she only saw the grandmother out walking with the little baby last weekend. They were talking about how nice the baby was.

"It is such a heartbreaking thing to happen and everyone here will be doing their best to support the family at this difficult time. It is just so, so sad."

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