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Sunday 4 December 2016

Freak drowning of fisherman mirrors tragic death of brother

Ralph Riegel and Anita Guidera

Published 27/04/2011 | 05:00

A FISHERMAN died in a freak drowning tragedy yesterday -- eight years after his younger brother died in similar circumstances.

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Oliver Cunningham (43), from Killybegs, Co Donegal, died after it is believed he tripped and fell into the harbour at Castletownbere in west Cork as he made his way back to his vessel.

In November 2002, Mr Cunningham's brother Matthew (25) drowned after he fell into Killybegs harbour.

A major search was launched in Castletownbere yesterday after Oliver failed to return to the fishing vessel, Patrick C.

Mr Cunningham had been out with friends and was returning to his vessel which was berthed by Castletownbere's quayside late on Monday night.

The alarm was raised yesterday morning when his friends realised, as they prepared to depart for a day's fishing, that he had not returned.

An immediate search was launched of Castletownbere harbour and the approaching channels supported by the RNLI, the Irish Coastguard, local sub-aqua clubs and local fishermen.

Mr Cunningham's body was discovered close to the town pier by divers at 1.45pm.

His death is being treated as a freak accident; it is suspected he slipped and fell into the harbour as he was trying to board the vessel.

Eight years ago, Mr Cunningham's younger brother died in similar circumstances. Matthew Cunningham had returned from attending a disco and was spotted by locals making his way out to his trawler in Killybegs.

When his disappearance was noted the following day, a search of the harbour was launched and his body was located near Killybegs pier.

Oliver Cunningham is survived by his parents, Dan and Bridie, two sisters and a brother.

Local Donegal TD Thomas Pringle said last night the community was in shock.

"This is devastating news for the community, particularly when his brother died in similar tragic circumstances seven years ago," he said. "Everybody's heart goes out to the family."

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Mr Pringle described the fisherman as a popular, quiet man.

Last night, his grieving family was preparing to travel to Cork to accompany his remains home. The body will be released to the family following a post-mortem which is due to be carried out at Cork University Hospital today.

Castletownbere fishermen expressed shock at the double-tragedy for the family.

"This is a desperate tragedy for any family. It is bad enough to have one person drown like this, but to have two brothers die the same way is just beyond words. Your heart would go out to the family," one local fisherman said.

Irish Independent

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