'My family have drowned, I know they have,' shocked teen told tourists
Published 27/04/2016 | 02:30
A teenage girl watched in horror as her father, brother and brother's girlfriend drowned after a freak wave turned a summer fishing trip into tragedy.
A Cork coroner's inquest heard that Charlotte Davis Ryan (13) was soaking wet and in deep shock as she told three stunned Welsh tourists out for a hill walk that her family had just drowned.
"I know they are dead - I saw their heads go down," the traumatised teen explained.
"My family have drowned. I know they have."
The trembling teen said her brother, Barry Davis Ryan (20), and his girlfriend, Niamh O'Connor (20), had been swept into the sea from rocks outside Baltimore in west Cork on June 30 last.
Her father, Barry John Ryan (51), had then bravely dived into the sea to rescue them.
Coroner Frank O'Connell was told the family group had gone to enjoy some rock fishing.
The two men who drowned are the son and grandson of Penneys retail empire founder Arthur Ryan (80).
In a garda statement, Charlotte said her brother had gone out to the farthest rock.
"A big wave splashed over us," she told gardaí.
"It got Barry and Niamh soaked. Then another big wave came and it hit us.
"Me and my Dad got soaked and got pushed up against the rocks.
"Barry and Niamh got pushed out to sea by the pressure of the sea. Barry was further out. Niamh was screaming.
"My Dad told me to go climb back up the rocks and get help.
"He swam out to Niamh (closest) and he got there - then I saw their heads go under."
Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster ruled all three died from drowning.
The inquest was attended by Ann Davis Ryan, who lost her husband and son in the tragedy. The inquest had to be briefly suspended when Mrs Davis Ryan collapsed.
Also in attendance were Ms O'Connor's parents.
Mr O'Connell extended his deepest sympathies to the Ryan, Davis and O'Connor families as he recorded verdicts of accidental death for all three.
"They were so, so unlucky. These freak waves can happen," he said.
"He (Mr Ryan Snr) gave his life in the course of trying to save the two others. He was an extremely brave and courageous man to make that decision.
"His actions are a testament to the quality of the man," the coroner said.
Colin Ryan, who lost his brother and nephew in the tragedy, thanked the search officials.
"We would just like to say thank you to the Irish Coastguard, to Baltimore RNLI, to the brave volunteers and especially all those divers - as well as the gardaí and people of west Cork who were incredibly supportive throughout this entire trauma," Mr Ryan said.