Saturday 16 December 2017

Emergency workers at drowning tragedy abused by drunk revellers, inquest told

Statues in memory of Michael O'Driscoll on the River Lee where he died. Picture Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Statues in memory of Michael O'Driscoll on the River Lee where he died. Picture Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Michael O'Driscoll, whose inquest was held in Cork today. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Discarded beer bottles leading to the water's edge at the scene of the drowning in Iniscarra, Cork, after a party went tragically wrong.
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

EMERGENCY services battling to save a 22-year-old drowning victim had to call for Garda reinforcements because of drunk and aggressive revellers by a river bank.

The drunk youngsters verbally abused emergency service members and then banged on the side of the ambulance which rushed Michael O’Driscoll (22) to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

The revelation came as his devastated mother, Mary, pleaded with youngsters to stay away from rivers and lakes over the June bank holiday weekend, saying her son's drowning left her “heart dead”.

Speaking after her Michael’s inquest, she urged teens to heed Irish Water Safety and Irish Coastguard warnings.

Michael drowned in Inniscarra, Cork, on June 10 last year after ignoring his mother’s pleas not to join a group who were drinking and socialising by the River Lee during the heatwave.

Four young men jumped into the river as a joke and then decided to swim across its 30m length.

Michael made it across the river - but got into difficulties as he tried to swim back.

His body was pulled from water 45 minutes later by emergency services personnel but he could not be revived.

The inquest returned a verdict of misadventure after Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster found during a post mortem examination Michael had a blood-alcohol level of 153mg, three times the drink driving limit.

“For God’s sake stay away from rivers, especially in the hot weather,” his mother said.

“It is every mother’s worst nightmare - their boys going out having a good time. I don’t want any other mother to go through my heartache...not in a million years.”

“I hope no-one will ever experience what we are after going through. My mind is racing. My heart is dead in my chest. My stomach is raw. I am actually a dead person myself after all of this,” the mother of five said.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane heard that four young men, including Michael, jumped into the river around midnight after drinking and attempted to swim across.

Bill O’Driscoll, one of those present, said in a statement to gardai it “all started as a laugh and a joke.”

“I cannot get that day out of my head...if I could do it again I wouldn’t go into the water,” he said.

He had been standing in the water drinking a can of beer when three others, including Michael, jumped into the river.

However, Michael got into difficulty on the return swim.

“I knew it was Michael ... I was trying to hold onto him but we were both sinking under the water. Only for the branch (I managed to grab onto) I was gone myself,” he said.

The alarm was raised and gardai, fire brigade and paramedics raced to the scene.

Emergency personnel admitted the scene by the river bank was “very aggressive”.

“The crowd were very volatile ... they kept shouting at us to get the male out of the water,” one witness said.

“They were banging on the side of the ambulance.”

Garda Adrian Murphy said that, of the eight people on the riverbank, only two including Bill O’Driscoll co-operated with gardai.

Aggression levels became so great that night gardai were forced to call for reinforcements.

“They were all very upset and it was not helped by drink. The gist of it was that they were all very drunk and then went swimming,” he said.

The O’Driscoll family has now erected a special Virgin Mary memorial to Michael at the River Lee bank in a bid to warn others of the dangers posed by swimming.

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