Farmer fell from cliff while trying to rescue stranded calf, inquest told

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Ralph Riegel

AN ELDERLY farmer was killed when he toppled over a cliff while bravely trying to rescue a stranded calf.

Anthony O'Sullivan (82) died when a rope snapped while he was heroically trying to recover a fallen calf with his west Cork neighbours.

Coroner Frank O'Connell told a Bantry inquest that it was "a horrible tragedy."

The revelation came as a West Cork Coroner's inquest returned a verdict of accidental death for the father of two on October 7 last.

Mr O'Sullivan from Gortnahig, Allihies, Beara, Co Cork, died despite desperate efforts by paramedics and members of the Castletownbere Coast and Cliff Rescue group to help him.

He had suffered catastrophic head injuries including a fractured skull when the rope being used to winch the calf to the top of the cliff suddenly snapped - and Mr O'Sullivan, having lost his footing, toppled over the cliff edge.

The fatal accident occurred when Mr O'Sullivan became aware that a calf was stranded on a beach at the foot of a 34 metre high cliff.

Mr O'Sullivan, a farmer, was renting land nearby at Reentrisk and had alerted a number of neighbours for help.

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One neighbour, Christiaan Muijzert, said locals tried to assist Mr O'Sullivan with the calf, with the aid of special straps, and walk it from the beach to safety.

However, this proved impossible and it was decided that, as a humane measure, to lift the calf, with the aid of special straps and ropes, up to the top of the cliff.

This would be done with the aid of a tractor at the top of the cliff.

Several attempts were made to hoist the calf to safety but locals were foiled by a combination of the cliff overhang and some old barbed wire on the cliff face.

It was decided to move to a different part of the cliff face and attempt the rescue again.

During the operation there, the straps and ropes somehow became separated and the calf fell back down onto the beach.

At the top of the cliff, Mr O'Sullivan lost his balance when the rope separated and, before he could regain his footing, he fell over the cliff edge.

The pensioner suffered catastrophic head injuries when he landed on rocks at the bottom of the cliff some 34 metres below.

Desperate efforts to stabilise his condition failed and he was pronounced dead at the scene by a local GP before he could be rushed to hospital by the Irish Coast Guard.

A post mortem examination was conducted by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster and she found Mr O'Sullivan had suffered a fracture to his skull along with a traumatic brain injury.

He had also suffered multiple internal injuries consistent with a fall from a height.

A verdict of accidental death was returned and the coroner extended his deepest sympathies to Mr O'Sullivan's family, friends and neighbours.

Mr O'Sullivan is survived by his wife, Eileen, children, Mary and John and his sister, Kathleen.

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