Galway pier tragedy: funerals of two of the three victims to take place one after another in the same church
Three teenagers died after car they were in slipped into waterway
The funerals of two of the three victims of the Galway pier drowning tragedy are to take place one after another in the same Church on Wednesday.
Young boxers and friends John Keenan (16) and Christopher Stokes (19) will also then be laid to rest in the same cemetery in Galway.
Gardaí investigating the tragic deaths of the three teenagers who drowned when their car slipped off a pier are set to speak to several witnesses.
Independent.ie understands that a second car travelled in convoy with the youths to the Menlo pier area in the early hours of Saturday.
A source said locals were alerted to the unfolding tragedy by the screams of teenage girls who were in the second car. It was the passengers of the second car who apparently alerted emergency services.
John Keenan, also known as John Sammon, and Wojciech Panek (17) died at the scene, while Christopher Stokes was taken to hospital in a critical condition but later died of his injuries.
Gardaí believe the car carrying the teens may have slipped off the edge of the pier and tipped on its roof, trapping the youngsters in a shallow narrow channel that runs alongside the pier.
Scoil San Phroinsias, the former school of the two of the boys, released a short statement on Monday afternoon.
“The entire school community is shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of our two past pupils. Both John and Christopher were upstanding students who were very popular with their peers. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this difficult time.”
Local councillor Frank Fahy said the Menlo area and beyond have been left shocked by the tragedy.
“This is not something I ever envisaged happening here,” he said. “We have never had anything like this happen here in Menlo and I have lived here all my life.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened. It’s a horrific tragedy, one you wouldn’t wish on anyone.
“They drowned in two or three feet of water which makes it all the more harrowing. I want to offer my deepest condolences to their families.
“I lost my own brother to a drowning accident in 1983 and it never leaves you.”
John Keenan and Christopher Stokes lived in the Headford Road area of Galway city and both boys were remembered as “great, decent young lads”.
A female neighbour of John Keenan’s recalled his kindness to younger children.
“He was just a lovely lad and everyone liked him. He was always smiling and very friendly,” she said.
“He was very kind to younger kids and I always thought that was a great trait in him.
“Everyone is absolutely horrified by this. It’s just so shocking and my heart goes out to his family.
“They reared him well because he was a good lad.”
A death notice for John Keenan has been posted on rip.ie, with details of his funeral that will take place on Wednesday morning, February 13, at 11am.
"The death has occurred of John Keenan Sammon, suddenly and unexpectedly after a tragic accident,” it reads.
"Deeply mourned and sadly missed by his heartbroken family, neighbours and friends.
“Reposing at his home on Tuesday, February 14. Requiem Mass will be celebrated for John on Wednesday, February 15, at 11am, in the Church of the Resurrection, Ballinfoyle, after which he will be laid to rest in Rahoon Cemetery.”
His friend Christopher Stokes’s funeral will take place directly afterwards, at noon in the same church and will be buried in the same graveyard.
A notice read that he died “suddenly and unexpectedly after a tragic accident. Beloved son of Anthony and Kate. Sadly missed by his heartbroken family, his brothers Michael, Tommy, Tony, and Martin, sisters Annalise, Nicole, Geraldine, Katlyn, and Lucy, nephew Mark, sister-in-law Madelena, grandparents, extended family and his many friends.
“Reposing in Conneely’s Funeral Home, Flood Street, Galway on Wednesday, 15th February, from 5pm. Removal at 7pm to the Church of the Resurrection, Ballinfoyle. Requiem Mass at 12 noon on Thursday, 16th February. Funeral afterwards to Rahoon Cemetery.”
Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche, who is heading the investigation, said gardaí battled to save the three teenagers.
Speaking on Monday morning, he said: “The call came in from a number of people who were on the pier. So, our cars were fortunate enough, it’s only a mile or two miles outside the city, so they were able to respond very quickly, and they got there within a short time.”
“But they found the car had entered the water and the three young men were still trapped inside,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
"So, they immediately entered the water and went under the water as well, to try to get them out. Within minutes the other first responders, the ambulance crews and the fire brigade, arrived and they were able to pull the car to a place where they were able to actually recover the three young men. But unfortunately, all three have since passed away.”
Chief Superintendent Roche said gardaí are appealing for information about the car that the three young victims were travelling in.
He appealed for anyone who saw a blue Peugeot, registration 08-D-128940, in or around the Menlo and Headford Road areas between 1.40am and 2.40am to contact gardaí.
“It left the pier and it was gone for five or six minutes and came back again with the three young men in it… We do know that they were in shops earlier that night. That car but another car was also up and down to the shops and typical behaviour of young people,” he added.
Boxing clubs across Connacht have paid tribute to the teenagers.
Both John and Christy were due to attend the Connacht Championship in Castlerea in Co Roscommon yesterday.
Locals laid flowers, lit candles and placed a picture next to Ballinfoyle church in Galway city where both boys worshipped with their families.
Mike Mongan, head coach at the Olympic Boxing Club, said: “The club is a sanctuary for these young boys. It keeps them on the straight and narrow and off the streets.
“We’re devastated this weekend but we have to look after the 12- and 13-year-olds and protect them.
“These boys and girls depend on us and we will be watching them even more now. We’re in such a cloud of grief.”
Galway Boxing county secretary Sean Clancy told RTÉ News: “The Olympic boxing club and management have been incredible this weekend.
“To be able to prepare their boxers and get them ready for championships and get them into the ring and kind of do it in a respectful way is a credit to everyone involved in the club.
“I know how good these coaches are in the Olympic to their boxers. How they hold themselves when there’s so much pain.
“The deaths of these young men is tragic. But somehow they keep going for the sake of all these young boxers.”