Sunday 18 February 2018

Drowned fisherman ‘had been drinking’ and was not wearing a lifejacket

Gerard Folan (43)
Gerard Folan (43)
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

A FISHERMAN who drowned while lobster fishing had consumed alcohol and was not wearing a lifejacket, a report into his death has found.

Gerard Folan (43), from Dooyeher in Carna, Co Galway, died after falling from his curragh the ‘Carraig Ainne’ near MacDara’s island off the coast of Co Galway on April 23 last year.

A report from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), published today, said the contributory factors included the fact he was fishing alone, had consumed alcohol and was not wearing a personal floatation device.

His outboard engine was not fitted with a kill cord, which should have stopped the engine had he fallen overboard.

The report says that Mr Folan, who held a fishing licence and whose boat was compliant with marine safety rules, was dropped to his vessel at Dooyeher Pier in Carna at 12.30pm on April 23 2012.

Mr Folan was checking his lobster pots off Deer Island in moderate weather with occasional showers.  The alarm was raised just after 9.30pm by the deceased’s ex-wife after he failed to call home.

An air, land and sea search was initiated, which was closed down at 2.38am the following morning.  Approximately an hour later, his curragh was spotted by another vessel which towed it to Rosaveel.  At 11am on April 24, Mr Folan’s body was discovered off the coast of MacDara’s island after the search was re-activated.

It was clothed only in white shorts, as it was his “normal procedure” to remove his clothes before swimming, and his remains were transferred to University Hospital Galway where he was identified by his sister Mary Folan.

Investigators found the cause of death was “probably drowning with elevated levels of ethanol a contributory factor”.

“The water temperature in April would have been between 7C and 10C...a person would become unconscious within 30 to 60 minutes and the expected survival time would be one to three hours,” the MCIB said.

“Given the ethanol levels it is unlikely that Mr Folan would have remained conscious or survived up to the maximum times.  Once unconscious and without a lifejacket to keep his head out of the water he would ingest water and drown before he was washed ashore.”

The report said all fishermen should wear lifejackets, should not drink and should inform a person onshore as to when they planned returning.

Separately, a report into the death of John Flynn, a fisherman who drowned in January this year, found his vessel capsized after being swamped by a wave.

The report recommended that owners of small boats regularly check to ensure the buoyancy of the vessel was not compromised, and said that a campaign be undertaken to highlight the importance of carrying flares and VHF radios on the person.

Mr Flynn was a former RNLI volunteer and was trained in first aid and sea survival.

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