Boy, 5, dies in tragic balloon accident as heartbroken mum issues helium warning

A five-year-old boy has died in a tragic balloon accident after spending six days in intensive care.

Karlton Noah Donaghey died while attempting to climb into a large, helium dinosaur balloon which he had got from The Hoppings, an annual travelling funfair in Newcastle.

Lisa Donaghey, 43, found her son on the floor of their home in Dunston, Gateshead, with the balloon over his head and neck and is how issuing an urgent message over the dangers of helium.

Young Karlton was given emergency CPR by neighbours before medics arrived at the scene and airlifted him to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

He spent six days in intensive care before his ventilator was sadly switched off.

Lisa, who is also mum to Kaitlin, 25, Joe, 20, and Will, 15, said they had been enjoying the warm weather in the garden when the accident happened on June 23.

She said she had gone to check on Karlton after he went inside to use the toilet.

“When I came in he was on the floor with the balloon over his head and his neck,” she said.

“It was a dinosaur balloon which was the same size as him. I think he’s put himself in the balloon to be a dinosaur to go outside and surprise his nieces.

“I pulled the balloon off him and I screamed. I think I carried him to the patio door. As a mother, I knew he was gone, he was unresponsive. He had his eyes wide open and he was pale.”

Karlton had been bought the large, green balloon as a treat during a trip to The Hoppings on The Town Moor in Newcastle with Lisa and his dad Karl Donaghey, 35, on June 17.

It was his first time at the funfair and he had enjoyed the rides.

Lisa added: “He had been really well behaved and he hadn’t asked for anything, he was never ungrateful. He was really well mannered so he got a treat.

“He loved dinosaurs – ‘dinosaur roar’ was probably one of his first words. He had lots of dinosaur and dragon books and lots of dinosaur toys.”

On the day of the accident, Kaitlin and her eight-month-old twin daughters Renàe and Tiànna Hodgson had come to visit.

Kaitlin and Lisa’s neighbour Amiee Morrison carried out CPR on Karlton until paramedics arrived at the house.

“I just collapsed outside on the grass,” said Lisa.

“I must have screamed and screamed and screamed. I couldn’t bare to come back in. My little boy was getting worked on. I was numb with fear and terror.

“Amiee took over from Kaitlin and she didn’t give up. She worked and worked and worked on my boy until the ambulance arrived and they took over. She was just fantastic and I’m so grateful. It took four minutes for the ambulance to arrive but it felt like four hours.”

Lisa said the Great North Air Ambulance Service, the North East Ambulance Service and Northumbria Police rushed to her address.

Karlton was airlifted to hospital and Lisa met him there after being transported in a police car with blue lights.

She said: “I remember a consultant stating that he was in a really bad way. I just hit the floor, I couldn’t get up. I was crying ‘my baby boy, my baby boy’. It was just horrible.”

Lisa said she didn’t leave Karlton’s side while he was in critical care at The Great North Children’s Hospital.

She said he began to suffer from seizures and doctors said there was nothing more they could do to save him. Karlton’s ventilator was turned off and he passed away on June 29.

She said: “I read to him and I sang to him. I washed his face, his fingers and his hair. I put Vaseline on his lips and I made sure he was clean. His heart was beating itself and his stats seemed to be showing improvement but he was suffering massive seizures. The last seizures affected him pretty badly. He wouldn’t be able to function, everything was damaged.

“He was trying to fight on but I knew he was fighting with a little ounce of energy, it was taking it all out of him. I told him ‘Stop being brave, go to sleep. I can cope without you and I can do you proud’. I told him ‘Just close your eyes and rest’ and ‘Don’t worry about mammy’. I promised my little boy that it wouldn’t break me.

“They took the sedation off him and he deteriorated rapidly. I had the beautiful opportunity to lie in bed with him, to hum and sing in his ear and cuddle him on my chest until his little heart stopped. My little boy just went to sleep and he looked so beautiful.

“I knew as a mother I wasn’t going to bring him home. I’m just grateful to have had the six days with him.”

Lisa said that before Karlton’s accident he had asked her for a Dachshund dog and she promised him one while he was in hospital.

After he passed away, she bought a puppy and called him Fudge after the Giraffe mascot at The Great North Children’s Hospital.

She said: “He’s brought a beautiful comfort to all of us, he’s helping me through it. He’s dead mischievous but lovely. Karlton was the exact same, he was such a loving kid. Karlton had a caring nature and he always thought of others. He was polite and he was mischievous, he was a total character.

“He had just lost his two bottom teeth and he had just learnt how to ride his bike without stabilisers. I would sit for three-and-a-half hours watching him so he was safe. He was my little best friend and my little sidekick, we did everything together from morning until night.”

The cause of Karlton’s death is believed to be the intake of helium however that is yet to be confirmed by a coroner. Lisa now wants to warn others about the dangers of helium.

She said: “It’s a toxic that can take a life in seconds. It’s very dangerous. It’s taken my son’s life, he was just wanting to playfully be a dinosaur. It can take a child’s life and it can take an adult’s life.

“I want parents, grandparents, childminders, adults, students, anyone that has come into contact with helium to be cautious about the ways they use it and dispose of it. A precious five-year-old has been taken too soon and I would never ever put this pain on anybody.”

Lisa also wanted to thank the medical staff at the RVI and The Sick Children’s Trust, Crawford House for looking after Karlton as well as her and Karl during the six days he was being treated there.

She also wants to thank the emergency services, Amiee and Kaitlin for carrying out CPR and family members and friends for their support.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to raise funds for Karlton’s funeral and a memorial in his name. More than £7,335 has already been donated.

Lisa added: “I’m totally amazed by the gratitude and the kindness of the individuals that have donated.”