Saturday 25 March 2017

Tragic dad drowned on his first day in new job

TJ O'Herlihy pictured with his son Conor
TJ O'Herlihy pictured with his son Conor
Bryan Whelan
The scene of the accident on Thomond Bridge in Limerick which claimed the lives of TJ Herlihy and Bryan Whela

Adam Cullen and Kathryn Hayes

A father of two who tragically died on his first day of work at a new job was waiting for his young family to join him in Ireland having moved home after years of living abroad.

Tim 'TJ' O'Herlihy (36), from Castleisland, Co Kerry, died alongside his workmate, Bryan Whelan (29) from O'Briensbridge, Co Clare, when they became trapped underwater while carrying out remedial works at Thomond Bridge in Limerick on Saturday.

TJ's partner Tessa, and their two children, Connor (4) and Katie (six months), were due to leave their home in Sweden and join him in Ireland today.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, TJ's brother Michael revealed that he was not supposed to be working the day of the accident.

Bryan Whelan
Bryan Whelan

"It was his first day on the job. He wasn't supposed to start until next week, but he got the call to come in early and was delighted with the extra work," said Michael.

"TJ had just moved back home from Sweden, where he lived with his partner Tessa.

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

"He moved back home to find a house and job and she was to join him on Monday with his four-year-old son Connor and his little six-month-old girl Katie," he said.

"He had just found a house and moved in and was waiting for his family to come and join him.

TJ O'Herlihy pictured with his son Conor
TJ O'Herlihy pictured with his son Conor

"It's so hard to put it into words, it is heartbreaking."

A keen sportsman, TJ starred on the rugby field with local club Castleisland RFC and was also a keen footballer.

"He loved sport and Kerry GAA. He will be remembered as a gentle giant, a happy-go-lucky soul with a big smile who had all the time in the world for whoever he met, in whatever little corner of the world that happened to be."

The family of Bryan Whelan described him as "a true gentleman who would drop everything at a moment's notice should you need him".

"We are just heartbroken. He was a fantastic son, brother and uncle, a true gentleman.

"Bryan's level of determination matched the demanding nature of his job, which he took great pride in. He lived for his job.

"He lived life to the fullest and will be deeply missed by us and his wide circle of friends.

"Our thoughts are also with the O'Herlihy family at this immensely tough time," said his sister-in-law Maura.

The two men died after the cage-like platform they were working on plunged into the River Shannon.

A cable attached to the cage, which was suspended over the side of Thomond Bridge, gave way, plunging the workers into the river.

Both victims were wearing life-jackets, but were also in harnesses which were attached to the cage, and were trapped underwater.

A third worker managed to swim down river and was rescued. Rescue workers say the dead men were under water for at least 10 minutes.

The victims were employed by Irish Bridge in Askeaton, which specialises in bridge repair work.

Metropolitan Mayor of Limerick Jerry O'Dea said the city of Limerick is in mourning following the tragic incident.

"Although these men were not from Limerick, the whole city is in mourning," he told RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland.

"Limerick is very good at acting in solidarity with events like this.

"There will be a candlelight ceremony on Saturday evening at 8.30pm at the bridge to pay our respects to the two men."

Irish Independent

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