News Irish News

Saturday 16 December 2017

'Devastating loss' as engineer is swept to his death in 'freak' landslide

Mr McCaffrey with his wife Helen
Mr McCaffrey with his wife Helen
The entrance property where the man lost his life on a as a result of a landslide at the construction of a wind farm in Ballyfarnon, Co. Sligo. Photo: James Connolly
Signs on the road leading to the wind farm construction site, where a man lost his life as a result of a landslide in Ballyfarnon, Co. Sligo. Photo: James Connolly
The entrance to the property where the man lost his life on a wind farm in Ballyfarnon, Co. Sligo. Photo: James Connolly
The entrance to the property where the man lost his life on a wind farm in Ballyfarnon, Co. Sligo. Photo: James Connolly
The entrance to the property where the man lost his life on a wind farm in Ballyfarnon, Co. Sligo. Photo: James Connolly

Greg Harkin

Tributes have been paid to an engineer killed in a 'freak' accident on the site of a new wind farm.

It took a rescue crew seven hours to find the body of Patrick McCaffrey (37), after a 'bog slide' with tonnes of peaty earth came tumbling down on top of him.

The accident happened after darkness fell on Monday at a new wind farm site in the townland of Gubbarudda just inside Co Sligo and 3km from the village of Ballyfarnon.

The site, 330 metres above sea level, is being developed by Tralee-based Moriarty Civil Engineering in an area famous for its coal mines.

The entrance to the site where Patrick McCaffrey lost his life. Photo: James Connolly
The entrance to the site where Patrick McCaffrey lost his life. Photo: James Connolly

Mr McCaffrey was on foot while a colleague was working in a digger when the landslide happened "suddenly", Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue said.

The men, along with the digger, were understood to have been moved at least 150m by the slippage. The man on the digger was unhurt, but Mr McCaffrey was trapped.

A large search and rescue operation started under "extremely difficult conditions", with poor visibility and unstable terrain from 7pm until after 2am yesterday.

Read more: 'A devastating loss to everyone' - Tributes paid after man dies in 'landslide' incident

The entrance to the property where the man lost his life on a wind farm in Ballyfarnon, Co. Sligo.
Photo: James Connolly
The entrance to the property where the man lost his life on a wind farm in Ballyfarnon, Co. Sligo. Photo: James Connolly

The operation included gardaí from Ballymote and Boyle, fire services from Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim, along with Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue, workers and neighbours who arrived to help.

The body of Mr McCaffrey was located by the fire service using thermal imaging and was recovered after 2am. His wife Helen had been taken to the scene of the accident and watched the recovery operation.

His manager Colin Scott said everyone in the company had been left devastated by the death.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr McCaffrey's family. Nothing like this has ever happened before," he said.

"It's a devastating loss to everyone. Patrick was a great worker and a superb employee who worked on our sites right around Ireland.

"We are still trying to take it all in."

Patrick and his wife Helen, who is originally from Tullaghan, Co Leitrim, moved to the Rossinver area four years ago.

The couple were left devastated a year ago after losing their newborn baby.

Philip Rooney, chair of the Rossinver Youth and Community Project, said the local community was rallying around Helen after the tragedy.

Mr McCaffrey was heavily involved in community work in Rossinver and was part of the Pride of Place awards team.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News