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Saturday 3 December 2016

Man who survived freak double drowning describes his miraculous escape

David Raleigh

Published 08/09/2015 | 07:53

Paul Murphy, Thomond Bridge tragedy survivor, Limerick. Pic: Press 22
Paul Murphy, Thomond Bridge tragedy survivor, Limerick. Pic: Press 22
The scene of the accident on Thomond Bridge in Limerick which claimed the lives of TJ Herlihy and Bryan Whela
Tim 'TJ' O'Herlihy (36), from Castleisland, Co Kerry, died alongside his workmate when they became trapped underwater while carrying out remedial works at Thomond Bridge in Limerick on Saturday
Bryan Whelan

A man who miraculously survived a freak double drowning tragedy on the River Shannon has revealed how he managed to escape from a cage underwater.

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Paul Murphy, who cannot swim, also described how he had a premonition something would go wrong.

Mr Murphy was one of three workmen strapped into a cage held by a cable attached to a crane positioned overlooking the river, when the cable snapped, sending all three into the water.

Father of two TJ O'Herilhy from Castelisland, and Bryan Whelan, 29, from Bridgetown, Co Clare, died in the incident after they became trapped underwater inside the cage.

Mr Murphy, originally from Wexford, but living in Askeaton, Co Limerick, managed to unhook himself from his harness that was attached to the cage before his life jacket floated him to the surface.

Mr O'Herlihy and Mr Whelan failed to unhook their harnesses and their bodies were found two feet below the surface still in the cage.

Tim 'TJ' O'Herlihy (36), from Castleisland, Co Kerry, died alongside his workmate when they became trapped underwater while carrying out remedial works at Thomond Bridge in Limerick on Saturday
Tim 'TJ' O'Herlihy (36), from Castleisland, Co Kerry, died alongside his workmate when they became trapped underwater while carrying out remedial works at Thomond Bridge in Limerick on Saturday

The three men had been carrying out structural repair works to Thomond Bridge, Limerick city, on August 29th, when the platform they were standing in collapsed into the river.

Read more: Gentle giant who adored family remembered at funeral

Bryan Whelan
Bryan Whelan

Speaking this morning on local radio station, Limerick's Live 95FM, Mr Murphy said: "I can't swim at all, so all week when I was in the basket, I was studying myself, what if...for some reason, I don't know why...if anything did ever happen."

"In work we do our own safety plan...but for some reason, in the back of my head, all week, I was just thinking, and I would say to myself, if something does happen, I have to get out of the water."

The scene of the accident on Thomond Bridge in Limerick which claimed the lives of TJ Herlihy and Bryan Whelan
The scene of the accident on Thomond Bridge in Limerick which claimed the lives of TJ Herlihy and Bryan Whelan

"For some reason, I knew, if anything did happen I would have to get my harness off. That was I my head all week," he added.

"So when I did hear the bang, I knew I had to get air, and get the harness off."

TJ Herlihy’s coffin is removed from the church
TJ Herlihy’s coffin is removed from the church

He said: "I felt calm, because, once water went into my mouth, I said to myself I only have one chance to get this off."

"My mouth was full of water at this stage so I knew I had to get the harness off."

Read more: 'Bryan died trying to make the bridge safe'

"I don't think I panicked until I hit the surface and tried to swim," he said.

The father of one added: "I can't remember seeing the harness. People were asking me could I see the boys beside me, I couldn't."

Speaking on RTE Radio 1's The Ryan Tubridy Show this morning, Mr Murphy said that it was a "special moment" bringing his son Jack to school for his first day.

"I was contemplating going in late to bring him in and I said it to my boss I'd take the day off to bring him in.

Luckily now it got him away from what was going on a bit".

Due a baby in November. "We're going today for a scan. It'll be Jack's First look at his baby sister on television, he says".

"Luckily for me it's a good news story but unfortunately there's two families out there that have lost two sons, fathers and brothers".

Mr Murphy paid tribute to his colleagues who lost their lives, and the emergency services who responded to the incident.

He also praised the 600 people who turned out at Thomond Bridge last Saturday for a candle lit vigil in memory of his late workmates.

He also thanked a teenager who ran along the river bank who kept throwing him a life ring and shouting safety instructions.

"I'd like to thank that young boy. That (memory) jumps out at me, that kindness of that young fella, he didn't know who I was, I could have been anybody, the kindness of him trying to save my life, even though I was ok. But, thank you very much whoever your are," Mr Murphy said.

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