Tuesday 27 September 2016

'They were so, so unlucky...these freak waves can happen' - coroner tells families of tragic Baltimore triple drowning

Heroic father dived into sea after son and young man's girlfriend swept away by 'mammoth wave' - inquest hears

Published 24/11/2015 | 17:13

The search and recovery operation in Baltimore, West Cork for the body of missing Barry Davis Ryan
The search and recovery operation in Baltimore, West Cork for the body of missing Barry Davis Ryan

AN HEROIC father dived into the sea in a doomed bid to save his son and the young man's girlfriend after they were swept away by "a mammoth wave."

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The revelation came as a Cork coroner's inquest heard that Barry John Ryan (51), his son, Barry Davis Ryan (20), and the young man's girlfriend, Niamh O'Connor (20), all drowned off Baltimore last June after an afternoon fishing trip ended in tragedy.

The two men are the son and grandson of Penney's retail empire founder, Arthur Ryan (80).

Coroner Frank O'Connell was told by Garda Martin Ash the three deceased, accompanied Mr Ryan Snr's daughter, Charlotte, decided to go rock fishing on June 30 last.

The four went to the eastern section of Beacon Point outside the picturesque west Cork fishing village of Baltimore.

"They were fishing from the rocks when a mammoth wave came in and swept two people from the rocks and into the sea," Garda Ash said.

Niamh O'Connor who tragically drowned off Baltimore, co. Cork.
Niamh O'Connor who tragically drowned off Baltimore, co. Cork.

Mr Ryan Snr saw his son and Ms O'Connor being swept into the sea and, after shouting at his daughter to run and get help, he dived into the water.

"He dived in to try and save the two," Garda Ash added.

Barry Ryan senior who tragically drowned off Baltimore, Co. Cork, on Tuesday evening.
Barry Ryan senior who tragically drowned off Baltimore, Co. Cork, on Tuesday evening.

Tragically, all three died.

The bodies of Mr Ryan Snr and Ms O'Connor were recovered almost immediately by Baltimore RNLI.

Barry Davis Ryan (20) drowned in Baltimore harbour in west Cork
Barry Davis Ryan (20) drowned in Baltimore harbour in west Cork

The body of Mr Davis Ryan was only recovered 11 days later following a massive search operation by volunteers.

Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster, told the inquest that all three died from drowning.

However, in the case of Mr Davis Ryan and Ms O'Connor she said post mortem examinations revealed they had both also sustained traumatic brain injuries.

Dr Bolster said these would have played a significant factor in the deaths.

It is likely that the duo, having been swept away by the giant wave, were then tossed against the rocks by the surging seas, striking their heads in the process.

Having heard evidence of the causes of death involved, Mr O'Connell adjourned the inquests for full hearing until February 16 next.

Ms O'Connor's parents were in attendance and Mr O'Connell extended his sympathies to them and the Ryan family.

"They were so, so unlucky...these freak waves can happen," he said.

"I would like to express my sympathy on the loss of your beautiful daughter. It was also a devastating tragedy (for the Ryan family) with the loss of two generations."

At the funeral ceremonies last July, the father and son were hailed as heroes for their efforts to save Ms O'Connor.

In a special message read out at the Requiem Mass of Mr Davis Ryan (20), on behalf of his mother, Ann, he was described as a hero just like his father, Mr Ryan Snr (51).

Mourners were told that he sacrificed his life for true love.

Danny Kelly, on behalf of Ann Davis, read out a special tribute at the Sacred Heart Church in Rath, outside Baltimore, in which his nephew was hailed for his courage.

"He loved his soulmate, the beautiful Niamh O'Connor, with all his heart. And he selflessly died trying to save her."

"Barry, just like his father, was a hero, who, without hesitation, was willing to die for love."

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