Death of ‘happy and bright’ 11-year-old one of saddest cases heard by coroner

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A coroner said the death of an 11-year-old schoolboy who “had his whole life ahead of him” was one of the saddest cases she had ever dealt with.

Dylan Afandi died in hospital nearly three weeks after being found seriously ill near a playing field, an inquest heard.

He was discovered on a mountain path near a rugby pitch in Brynithel, Blaenau Gwent, at around 6.15pm on May 11 last year, North Wales live reports.

He died 18 days later on May 29 at University Hospital of Wales with the cause of death given as hanging and a lack of oxygen to the brain.

But the coroner recorded a verdict of misadventure, saying she “just cannot be sure that Dylan intended to take his own life”.

Dylan, of Prince Andrew Road, Pen-twyn, was described as a “happy, bubbly, and bright boy” by those giving evidence.

They said he showed no signs that he was troubled or had any intention to take his own life.

A witness statement from a local resident said his son was walking their dog along the path when he discovered what he believed to be the body of a man.

The resident and a neighbour ran to the scene where they began administering CPR to Dylan before calling for an ambulance just after 6.30pm, which arrived after five minutes.

Paramedics took over before Dylan was taken to the A&E department at University Hospital of Wales. Scans showed he had suffered a severe brain injury due to oxygen deprivation.

After staying in hospital for more than two weeks, Dylan’s family made the heart-breaking decision to reorient his treatment to palliative care.

On May 29 he died at 5.40pm.

In a statement, Dylan’s mum, Sarah Morris, described her son as “a bubbly, cheeky little monkey”.

She said: “Mammy’s brightest, happiest, funny little boy – you have left a massive hole in all our hearts.

“We all miss you dearly and God has gained you way too early. You had your whole life ahead of you and we will forever be heartbroken.

“Until we meet again – lots of love, Mammy and family.”

Katie Ralph, who married Dylan’s dad in 2014 and had four children with him, said Dylan was “his normal happy self” on May 11 and in the days leading up to his death.

She said he got up as normal, ran errands, helped in the garden, and was planning what he wanted to do for his sister’s birthday.

Later that day he went shopping with Ms Ralph at Asda, but stole some pens and chocolate biscuits from the store, which was described as out of character.

That evening Dylan sought permission to go for a long walk before dinner, which was something he had done frequently during lockdown.

He was usually gone for an hour but when he did not return after about 90 minutes, with his dinner on the table, his family became concerned.

Later they received a phone call telling them a boy had been found on the path near the rugby pitch.

“He was a very happy boy,” Ms Ralph said. “He was helpful around the house and playing with his younger siblings. He was great with them, especially the baby.”

Ms Ralph said that there had been some incidents of bullying towards Dylan at primary school and one at high school when he was deliberately tripped over.

Recording a conclusion of misadventure coroner Sarah Le Fevre said: “This is perhaps one of the saddest cases that I’ve ever dealt with as a coroner.

“Dylan was described universally as a happy, bubbly, playful boy who wanted to help and make people laugh.

“I extend my sincerest condolences to all of the family who are here today and those who are not here.

“I just cannot be sure that Dylan intended to take his own life and that being the case I can’t record a conclusion of suicide.

“It seems to me that misadventure is the appropriate conclusion.”