Tuesday 20 March 2018

Heartbroken family of kayaker comforted by heroic rescue bid

Barry Duggan and Breda Heffernan

THE family of a young kayaker who drowned have said they are taking solace from the fact that he saved the life of one friend and died trying to save another.

Philip Kelly (31) perished alongside his housemate, Connie Smith (34), after their kayaks became trapped on a flooded weir on the River Clodagh at Portlaw, Co Waterford, on Wednesday night.

Philip immediately went to the aid of Connie after he got into difficulty on the weir. Both men soon realised they were in trouble and shouted to their third friend, Derek Elliott (26), not to come down.

Derek has credited his two heroic friends with saving his life saying: "Really and truly, I am here because of them."

Despite the frantic efforts of rescuers, Philip and Connie did not survive. The funeral of Mr Smith will take place at noon today at St Patrick's Church, Aghaloora, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan. Mr Kelly's funeral Mass will be at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Cappawhite, Co Tipperary, tomorrow at 11am.

Speaking last night at his home in Cappawhite, where Philip was being waked, his emotional father, John, paid tribute to a "fine and adventurous young man".

"He was that sort of fella -- he was a brave lad and he loved the outdoors," John said.

Philip is survived by a large family including his mother, Patricia; brothers John, Pat, George and Frank; and sisters Georgina, Rachel, Mary and Lorraine. Three of his siblings were last night returning home from Australia.


"He came home there last weekend and he brought his Swedish girlfriend, Linn, to us. She's a lovely girl and they were in great form," John said.

"Everything was going perfect for him. He had a boat here and he repaired the engine on it, so he was in flying form.

"He liked to take the boat out on Lough Derg during the summer and travel to one of the islands on it. A few of his mates would go off and they would spend the night camping on the island, cooking whatever they could and enjoying life," John said.

John learned of the death of his son on Thursday morning.

"The guards from Tipp town came to the door at 3.30am. It is true what they say, it is every parent's worst nightmare -- that call. I thought it might have been one of the girls first, then I thought a car crash. But they said it was Philip.

"But that's it -- what can you say. Perhaps if there was a warning sign to say they were coming up to a weir, these things should be mapped out. We'll all miss him -- he was a fine man doing well in his job. He had everything going for him," the heartbroken father added.

Irish Independent

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