Thursday 21 September 2017

Man who went to friend's aid on boat drowned

Elaine Keogh

A MAN who left his home to help a friend get off a boat was later found drowned, an inquest heard yesterday.

Stephen Fergus (48) left his home on a Sunday afternoon to go to help his friend who was stuck on his boat off the Dundalk coast.

His widow Lisa said Mr Fergus's mobile rang at about 3.50pm on February 12 and it was his friend Pat O'Brien, who was having trouble with his boat.

Mr Fergus put on his waders and overalls and left the house. He left his mobile phone behind and at 4.15pm Lisa answered it -- it was Mr O'Brien saying her husband had not arrived.

With their daughters Erin (16) and Amy (14), Lisa went to Soldiers Point to look for him.

Mr O'Brien told Dundalk Coroners Court that earlier that day Mr Fergus had pulled his boat alongside and "he tied the boats together and we chatted for about half an hour.

"We planned jobs that we were going to do on the boats that week," he said.

Afterwards Mr O'Brien headed towards Dundalk Bay and when he returned towards the shore realised: "I had to anchor where I was which meant I wouldn't have been able to get off my boat for three or four hours on account of the depth of the water."

Submerged

He decided to ring Mr Fergus and ask him to "give me a lift off my boat using his boat . . . Stephen agreed and said he would be over shortly."

The inquest heard Mr Fergus had taken a punt belonging to John Tuite, another boatman, to take him out to his own boat.

However, Mr Fergus, of Waterview, Lower Point Road, Dundalk, never arrived at Mr O'Brien's boat.

Just after 6pm, Drogheda Coastguard recovered Mr Fergus's body. It was submerged on mussel beds off Dundalk.

Pathologist Dr Helen Barrett said the dead man had drowned.

She was asked by the family if a number of small cuts on his face meant he could have fallen getting out of the punt, but answered: "It was not possible to say specifically."

The coroner returned a verdict of accidental death and said it had been "a terrible, terrible accident. He loved messing round in boats and got a call to help a friend and that is what he was going to do."

Speaking afterwards, Lisa Fergus said they would like him to be "remembered for being a good family man and for his kindness."

Irish Independent

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