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Monday 21 August 2017

Young man fishing on river bank slips and drowns

Louise Hogan and Elaine Keogh

THE family of a young man who drowned after slipping from a riverbank into 4.5 metres of water while fishing, last night told of their desperate efforts to save him.

Stephen Toner (27) had been on the bank of the River Fane with his younger brother, Andrew, and a nephew around 2km from the family home in Dromiskin, Co Louth, when the tragedy occurred.

His tight-knit family, including his father Patrick and eight siblings, described yesterday the efforts his brother and nephew had made to try and pull him from the water before they swiftly raised the alarm.

"He just slipped off the bank, it was a verge of grass and it was so wet he just slipped. Unfortunately, where he slipped into was probably the deepest part of it," his sister Anita explained as the family gathered at their home in the Church View estate in the small village.

"It was 15 to 20ft. He couldn't swim. The other two young fellows tried to do everything to save him, there was no saving him. Once he went down, that was it."

Stephen fell into the river before 4pm on Monday. His body was recovered with the assistance of the Dundalk Sub Aqua Club at 8pm, some four- and-a-half hours later. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

"Stephen got into difficulties and despite heroic and valiant efforts by his family he could not be saved," a garda said.

His family praised the efforts of the volunteer rescue group, the gardai, firemen and the search-and-rescue helicopter dispatched to the scene to try find him.

Anita also told how they had received a phone call on Monday afternoon telling them Stephen had fallen into the water at the well-known fishing spot.

His friend, Martin O'Connell, described how family and friends had immediately rushed to the scene, where they began searching. He was later located near the spot where he had fallen in.

Enterprising

The young man had attended St Brigid's Special School in Dundalk and then completed a computer course at a training centre.

His family said he had always been enterprising and had also set up his own business at the back of their two-storey home selling firewood to shops.

"He was a bubbly type of a chap, loved Arsenal football team, loved throwing darts, loved music," Anita said.

A post-mortem examination was being carried out at the Louth County Hospital in Dundalk yesterday evening.

His funeral takes place tomorrow at St Peter's Church, Dromiskin, at 2pm. His family has asked that donations, if desired, be given to the Dundalk Sub Aqua Club.

An inquest is expected to be held into Mr Toner's death later this year.

Irish Independent

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