Autistic teen loved water, couldn't swim


AN autistic teenager who went missing from Clifton Beach in March 2008 grew up near a beach and loved the water, the Hobart Coroners Court has heard.

Jackson Kelty, 15, and his state carer Brendan Dermody went missing from the popular surf beach near Hobart on March 15, 2008, where it is presumed they drowned.

Jackson's mother, Peta Kelty, said that her son loved to paddle in shallow water although he could not swim.

"The minute he hit the sand he'd kick his shoes off and run into the water," she said.

Mrs Kelty said that she made it clear to his carers that Jackson could not swim but that she would have suggested the beach as a place to take Jackson for recreation.

She said that she was also aware Jackson was often taken for walks on the beach by his carers with another autistic boy who lived in the same house.

The court heard that the other boy, who was with Jackson and Mr Dermody on March 15, 2008, had difficulty sleeping and going for long walks would tire him and help him sleep.

"I know they were fond of Clifton because it was so long," Mrs Kelty said.

Mrs Kelty said that Jackson was epileptic and suffered numerous types of seizures.

She said that his epilepsy was cyclical and that he was not in the middle of a cycle at the time he disappeared.

"It's my one hope that the stress he was under when he was drowning would have triggered a seizure so at least he would have been unconscious," she said.

Mrs Kelty said that the group of carers who cared for her son provided a high standard of care but that she had concerns about what she said was the limited training they had received.

"(Jackson) was always very pleased to see the men and they were always very kind to him," she said.

"I wasn't really in a position where I could fund Jackson's recreation either and I know that they were really honestly sorry that the time they spent with him couldn't be a bit more fun."

Mrs Kelty said that the carers had raised with her their concerns about having to care on various occasions for Jackson and the other boy without the assistance of a second carer.

She said that Jackson would often have been scratched or bruised by the other boy who would become aggressive when he was upset.

"I certainly felt that they (the carers) weren't happy with the situation," she said.

Outside the court, Mrs Kelty said that both children had a "very, very high" level of need and that it was a "disgrace" for one carer to be expected to care for both of them.

"They were such a lovely group of guys and I honestly believe that they have been let down just as severely as my son was," she said.

Through her counsel, Mrs Kelty expressed condolences to Mr Dermody's family who she said had Jackson's best interests at heart.

The inquest continues today.


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