Wednesday 14 November 2018

Baltimore tragedy: Drowned father and missing son are members of Penneys dynasty

Emergency services, Irish Coastguard and the RNLI pictured near Baltimore, Co. Cork Pic Paul Cunningham/Provision
Emergency services, Irish Coastguard and the RNLI pictured near Baltimore, Co. Cork
Emergency services, Irish Coastguard and the RNLI pictured near Baltimore, Co. Cork

Ralph Riegel, Adam Cullen and Mark O'Regan

Two members of the Penneys dynasty were among those involved in a tragic incident which saw a young man, his girlfriend and his father swept out to sea at Baltimore, west Cork yesterday evening.

Barry Ryan (51), a scion of the family that founded the Irish retail giant Penneys, drowned while his son, Barry Davis Ryan (21), who is believed to have had a part-time job at the popular clothes store, is missing.

Barry Davis Ryan's girlfriend Niamh O'Connor (20) also lost her life in the tragedy.

The bodies of Mr Ryan Sr and Ms O'Connor were recovered yesterday evening, while the search continues for Mr Davis Ryan today.

Barry Ryan Sr heroically dived into the sea in a doomed bid to save his son and the young man's girlfriend while shouting at his teenage daughter to run and raise the alarm.

The Ryan family are originally from Dublin but have been living in west Cork for some time.

It is feared that Ms O'Connor, from Glanmire in Cork, was swept out to sea from rocks while admiring the Beacon beauty spot outside the west Cork village.

The triple tragedy occurred shortly after 6pm at East Hole, just metres from the Beacon, one of the most popular tourist spots in the west Cork harbour.

Locals said it is feared Ms O'Connor may have been swept off rocks, underneath the Beacon headland, by a freak wave.

Ms O'Connor's boyfriend courageously dived into the sea in a doomed bid to save her.

However, when he also got into difficulty, his father shouted at his 14 year old daughter, Charlotte, to run and raise the alarm before fearlessly diving into the sea in a bid to save the two young people.

Charlotte ran and met two foreign tourists who raised the alarm when they realised the distraught teen had just witnessed a major tragedy.

Baltimore RNLI under coxswain Kieran Cotter were at the scene within 10 minutes.

The RNLI rescue centre is within sight of the Beacon headland.

The bodies of both Mr Ryan Snr and Ms O'Connor were recovered by the inshore rescue craft in a matter of minutes and rushed to Baltimore Pier where emergency cardiac-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was commenced by a local SouthDoc GP.

However, despite desperate efforts to save them, both were pronounced dead at the scene before they could be transferred to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Both have now been removed to CUH for post mortem examinations.

A search was maintained until 10pm but there was no trace of Mr Davis Ryan's body.

A major operation resumed at first light today to locate the student and Penney's worker who is missing and feared drowned.

The search is being co-ordinated by the Irish Coastguard with the Waterford-based Sikorsky helicopter.

Naval Service divers have also been deployed.

At the height of the rescue operation on Tuesday evening, two Irish Coastguard helicopters from Waterford and Shannon were deployed alongside three RNLI lifeboats and three Irish Coastguard craft.

Mr Cotter told the Herald that such coastal and rock walks can prove to be extremely dangerous even in fine weather.

"The sea is always dangerous. Even when the weather is flat calm, you can get large waves or swells," he said.

"This is a desperately sad case. I know Barry from coming into my shop and from meeting him in the pub over a pint. He was a lovely fella and they are a very respected family here. But the sea can be very false at times," he added.

Ms O'Connor, who is from the Glanmire/Knockraha area on the outskirts of Cork city, is a student at University College Cork (UCC).

She had been dating Mr Ryan for several months and had travelled to west Cork for a brief holiday with her boyfriend and his family.

The young man was also very interested in writing.

Ann Davis, Mr Ryan's partner, and Charlotte Davis Ryan were being comforted today by family, neighbours and friends.

Gardai and Irish Coastguard officials are liaising with the family over the ongoing search for Mr Davis Ryan's body.

The search is also being assisted by West Cork Dive Rescue led by John Kearney.

Mr Ryan (50) had worked in Penney's but had also worked in photography which was his passion.

Mr Ryan and Mr Davis Ryan are the son and grandson of Penneys founder, Arthur Ryan (82).

Arthur Ryan, a native of Dublin, worked in Dunnes Stores before being hired by the Weston family to set up a special clothing retail business.

Under his shrewd guidance, Penneys/Primark became one of the dominant retail clothing outlets in both Ireland and the UK.

The Ryan family retain a significant shareholding in the retail giant.

Irish Independent

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