Mum 'jumped over cliffs and took her son with her'
A young mother apparently deliberately jumped to her death from the cliffs of Moher, taking her four-year-old son with her.
Despite heroic efforts by rangers and the rescue services, Eileen Murphy (26) and her little boy, Evan, both almost certainly died immediately from horrific injuries sustained in plunging more than 600ft from the Co Clare cliff-face.
Her mother, also Eileen, sobbed as details of their final hours were unveiled before the Coroner's Court in Galway.
Eileen and Evan had travelled from their home in Churchtown, Co Cork, and booked into the Skeffington Arms Hotel on Eyre Square in Galway city centre on January 29 last. The little boy seemed happy and excited to be staying at a hotel, receptionist Lisa Moore told the inquest.
Eileen had enquired about buying tickets for a trip to the Cliffs of Moher and next morning bought a ticket at the shop beside the hotel. Shop assistant Ann Koshiba pointed out that almost everyone asked what time the bus returned to Galway, but the young woman with the child did not.
Eileen and Evan initially sat at the back of the bus, but after it had stopped for lunch in Doolin, they took up the front seat. As the bus pulled into the car-park, Eileen jumped off and headed up the road so quickly that the bus driver warned her to be careful.
Cliffs of Moher ranger, Aine O'Loughlin noticed the young woman carrying the child up to the cliffs on what was a very gusty day.
"She seemed determined", recalled Ms O'Loughlin.
When she noticed that the woman and child had gone past a sign warning visitors not to go beyond that point, she alerted another ranger, Tom Doherty.
Mr Doherty told the inquest that he had searched the cliff edge but could see no one. He looked down at the sea and first noticed one, and then a second, body in the water. He immediately alerted the lifeboat and other rescue services.
Both rangers told West Galway Coroner Dr Ciaran McLoughlin that visitors to the Cliffs of Moher continually ignored the warning sign and went past the sign onto a pathway alongside the cliff edge. Both agreed it was very dangerous but, as it was a right of way, there was very little that anybody could do about it.
Garda John Feehan from Corofin said the numbers of people going to what was a very dangerous path past warning signs were "incredible". Some of them even went out onto a ledge to take photographs not realising that it could collapse under them and it was a sheer cliff face all the way to the bottom.
State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy described the list of severe injuries sustained by both. The cause of death in both cases was fractures of the cervical spine.
Referring to Eileen Murphy, Prof Cassidy said: "She appeared to have deliberately jumped from the cliffs taking her son with her."
Delivering a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence, the coroner said it was probable that both had died at the scene. He extended his sincere sympathy to Mrs Murphy on what was a particularly poignant tragedy for her and her family.
Dr McLoughlin urged Clare County Council to look at the possibility of increasing the measures in place at the Cliffs of Moher, particularly when there was risk that people could be blown off the cliffs.