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Charity climb ends in rock crush deaths

By RALPH RIEGEL and GORDON DEEGAN A CLIFFS of Moher charity climb by a Cork adventure club ended in tragedy at the weekend with two climbers ...

A CLIFFS of Moher charity climb by a Cork adventure club ended in tragedy at the weekend with two climbers killed and a third now battling for his life.

Dominic Feehily (45), Griffinville, Magazine Road, Cork and Jenny Farrell (25), Clonmoyle East, Coachford, Co Cork died after being crushed at the foot of the Cliffs of Moher by a massive rockfall on Saturday afternoon.

Louis O'Driscoll (46), Beanhill, Clonakilty, Co Cork is in a critical condition on a life support machine at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin with serious head injuries.

Mr O'Driscoll tried to get away as several tonnes of rubble came away from the cliff face. He was first taken to Galway Regional Hospital.

The three were part of a 25-strong group from the Cork-based Irish Sport and Adventure Club who were abseiling the cliff to raise funds for St Finbar's Sick and Poor Society, a Leeside charity.

The club had already successfully completed an descent of the cliff on Saturday morning.

Mr O'Driscoll, who was abseiling the Cliffs of Moher for his 61st time, had reached the base of the cliff half a mile north of O'Brien's tower and was acting as safety officer for the rest of the group. Mr Feehily and Ms Farrell had just reached the bottom when climbers heard a ``massive clap of thunder'', according to witness Brian Lougheed who was at the top of the 633 ft cliff.

Rock fell from the face about 45 feet away from where the three had abseiled down and plummeted onto the helpless climbers below.

Within five or six minutes, seven climbers descended the cliff to help the injured.


``We could see the three bodies, two of them were fairly well buried. Louis O'Driscoll had tried to get away but he was caught,'' Mr Lougheed said.

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Doolin Coastguard unit, training at nearby Hag's Head, assisted club members and other volunteers to remove the rubble.

Mr O'Driscoll was transferred by Coastguard helicopter to hospital while Mr Feehily and Ms Farrell were pronounced dead at the scene.

Up to 50 people helped take the bodies by rope hand-over-hand up the cliffs.

Jenny Farrell's body was recovered at 5.26pm while it took another two hours to bring the body of Mr Feehily from the base. Both were transferred to Ennis General Hospital where a post mortem examination was carried out yesterday.

Mr Feehily, single, originally from Blarney Street, Cork, worked as a painter and decorator. Ms Farrell, also single, is survived by her younger brother Peter and sister Fiona and parents David and Frances. She had qualified as an engineer last year and was working in Cork.

Club group leader Ollie de Burca described the tragedy as a freak accident. Both of the deceased had abseiled in the area a number of times.

``Louis was saying earlier that it was one of his best abseils, the one we had this morning. It was just a tragic accident. It was just a freak.''

Mattie Shannon, of Doolin Coastguard unit, said: ``Rocks can fall at any time. People have abseiled there before. It was just bad luck on the day, a terrible misfortune. It is a dangerous area, people walk along the cliff edge and I'm surprised more people don't get injured or hurt.''

Supt Gerry Kelly, Ennis, said: ``It is a tragic event. The rescue team from Doolin, helped by Kilkee did absolutely brilliant work hauling them up, incredibly dangerous work.''

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