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Inquiry fails to solve mystery of epileptic's boat death

MARINE investigators are still baffled as to why a 43-year-old epilepsy sufferer drowned in calm waters while out rowing.

Aidan Fennell died just 300 metres off the Dublin coast in October last year after taking a short trip in his boat to Dalkey Island.

An experienced boatman, he went missing just 90 minutes after taking to the water -- and a report published yesterday by the Marine Accident Investigation Unit does not conclude how he died.

But it noted that Mr Fennell was an epileptic who suffered from fits and convulsions up to twice a month.

It also found that had he been wearing a life jacket, he might have survived.

Mr Fennell, from Blackrock in Co Dublin, was a strong swimmer who had frequently swum over to the island.

On October 12 last, he left Coliemore Harbour at 2.15pm in his home-made wooden punt 'Lewis' and a friend, Kevin O'Farrell, helped him launch the boat.


Mr O'Farrell raised the alarm at 3.15pm because Mr Fennell had failed to return.

"He called the Coast Guard at 3.32pm expressing his concern. The Coast Guard immediately tasked the Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat and Rescue Helicopter R116 to search the area around Dalkey Island," the investigation report said.

Mr Fennell's body was recovered from the water just before 4.10pm and flown to Tallaght Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A post-mortem found that death was due to drowning, and an open verdict was given at his inquest. There was no sign of injury to the body.

Investigators found his boat was "sturdily constructed" and had suffered only minor damage, which appeared "very recent and fresh".

"Mr Fennell was a strong swimmer and a competent boatman well used to the waters," they found.

The report added that prior to setting out, Mr Fennell was going to ferry a German tourist and his three children out to Dalkey Island.

However, the man fell into the water and they decided not to go.

Mr Fennell had carried passengers in the past.

Investigators recommended that all small craft should be equipped with appropriate safety equipment and a means of indicating distress.

Going out to sea alone is not recommended and lifejackets should be worn, the investigators' report added.

Irish Independent