Monday 5 December 2016

Man called out 'Goodbye, I love you' as he witnessed brother drown

Gordon Deegan

Published 29/09/2015 | 02:30

Father-of-three Bernard Mahoney (39), died after he was caught by rising water levels while out oyster farming in Clare.
Father-of-three Bernard Mahoney (39), died after he was caught by rising water levels while out oyster farming in Clare.

A man shouted "Goodbye brother, I love you" after watching his sibling disappear into the water in Poulnasherry Bay, Co Clare, last April.

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An inquest in Ennis heard that Alan Mahoney called out after watching his brother, Bernard (39), from Moveen, Kilkee, go underwater.

It followed a desperate attempt by Bernard to try to make it to shore to get help for four men stranded on two tractors.

Father-of-three Bernard was due to attend the christening of his youngest son later that same day, last April 19, before tragedy struck while he and three others were out laying oyster bags in the early hours.

The four had travelled to the oyster fields in two tractors but had plunged into a deep channel after taking a wrong turn in the dark as they were returning to shore at around 1.30am.

One of the men, Marcin Butlewski, said he could hear Bernard shouting: "I will jump into the water and swim to the shore and get us help."

Mr Butlewski had earlier swum the short distance from Bernard's tractor to the one being driven by his brother and a fourth man, John Ryan, on higher ground.

Mr Butlewski said: "I screamed back, 'Don't swim, it is extremely dangerous, you won't make it'. Alan screamed the same. We all started screaming.

"However, Bernard did jump, and within 10 seconds he was gone."

In his deposition, Alan Maho- ney said: "Bernard said that we would take off our waders and swim in.

"The water was about five-foot-high at this stage. I told him I couldn't swim.

"Bernard took off his waders and tried to swim. He went up and down in the water five times. That was the last I saw of him."

The third survivor, Mr Ryan, said Bernard was only five or six feet from their tractor "and he was saying, 'I'll get in, I'll get in', meaning he would get in to land".

"He went down and came back up," said Mr Ryan.

"I roared at him to see if he could stand and I realised at that time that he couldn't swim. I jumped into the water and the current was too strong and I got back to the tractor."

Mr Butlewski said that after Bernard disappeared, Alan screamed out, "Goodbye bro- ther, I love you'."

Upset

Mr Butlewski said Alan then became very upset, saying: 'It's my fault, it's my fault'."

Mr Butlewski told the inquest that he said to Alan: "It's not your fault, it's mother nature's fault."

The three men started to scream for help as loud as possible and some people came out of the local pub and launched a boat to go to their rescue.

In response to a question from County Coroner Isobel O'Dea, Mr Butlewski said the men were not wearing lifejackets and did not have flares.

Ms O'Dea returned a verdict of accidental death and said that with the men having no flares on the tractor, it was providential that the three were rescued, but that did not take away from Bernard's life being lost.

Irish Independent

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