Sailor drowned in freezing water after drinking session
Published 29/06/2011 | 05:00
A SAILOR fell into freezing seas and drowned while attempting to return to his ship after a five-hour pub session.
Naval Service Leading Seaman Robert O'Keeffe (34) was found to have a blood alcohol level of 250mg -- more than three times the drink-driving limit -- when his body was recovered from the water just two metres from Schull Pier in west Cork last November.
His navy colleagues -- who had joined him in the Black Sheep pub in Schull on November 27 -- estimated he had consumed up to eight pints of beer and a single short of Sambucca.
His heartbroken partner, Moira Dingivan, attended yesterday's Cork coroner's inquest.
Coroner Frank O'Connell was told the LE Aisling had put into Schull to shelter from atrocious weather conditions earlier that day.
Mr O'Keeffe had gone ashore at 7pm with some friends and had gone to the Black Sheep pub. Leading Mech Brian Murphy said he did not see his friend leave the pub in the early hours of November 28 and told the inquest that the roads leading down to the pier were extremely icy that night.
Locals Donie O'Brien and Michael Supple said they were driving by the pier that night and spotted a man matching Mr O'Keeffe's description staggering along the road.
Lt Cmdr Brett said he saw Mr O'Keeffe leave the pub.
"I assessed that he was under the influence of alcohol but I judged that he was in a fit state to return to the ship (launch) unaided," he said.
The alarm was raised when, at 2am, the ship's captain was informed that Mr O'Keeffe had not returned to the LE Aisling.
A search of the town and harbour later revealed his body within two metres of the pier, floating face down in the sea.
Blood was seeping from a cut on the back of his head.
Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster ruled that the young man had drowned.
However, she couldn't say if the cut to his head was inflicted by his slipping on the pier, falling on to the stone steps and then into the sea or whether it happened in the water.
She said the combination of alcohol, a possible blow to the head in the fall, and the freezing waters would have made it very difficult for him to save himself.
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.