Wednesday 11 December 2019

Paddling schoolboy drowns after slipping in reservoir

Teenager Gareth McGuirk (inset) and the Drogheda reservoir where he drowned
Teenager Gareth McGuirk (inset) and the Drogheda reservoir where he drowned

Allison Bray and Brian Byrne

THE devastated family of a schoolboy who went missing while in a reservoir with other children watched in agony as his lifeless body was retrieved by divers.

Gareth McGuirk (13), of St Laurence Park, Moneymore, Drogheda, was paddling with two other teenagers in the shallow area of Rosehall Reservoir in north Drogheda yesterday.

He appeared to lose his footing after the bottom of the reservoir sharply plunged to 30ft and he disappeared under water.

His two friends tried to swim out to him but could not find him. Their calls for help reached people on the shore, who were trying to throw a rope out to where he disappeared but he failed to surface.

A female friend of the teenager rang her father to alert the emergency services. The alarm was raised at around 3.45pm.

Coast Guard units from Drogheda and Dublin, along with paramedics and gardai, rushed to the scene of the disused quarry that is now a man-made freshwater lake for a local angling club.

The boy could not be located in time and his body was retrieved by drivers from the Boyne Fishermen's Rescue and Recovery unit at around 5pm.

Diver Richard Skelly said a team of three divers found Gareth's body about 25 feet from the edge of the rectangular lake which is over 30 feet deep in the middle.

"It was gut-wrenching stuff," he told the Irish Independent. "There were tragic scenes at the bank with family and friends trying to deal with it."

Gareth's body was removed to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital where a post-mortem examination is to take place today. He was the eldest child of Noel Reid and Andrea McGuirk. He is survived by three sisters aged six, eight and 11 and a two-year-old brother.

"People in Drogheda are absolutely shocked at this loss of life," said mayor Kevin Callan. "Especially in a town where we have a number of river rescue groups and we're very proactive about water safety.

"It's just terrible. I'm absolutely devastated to hear the news that a young boy has lost his life in Drogheda and my condolences go out to his family."

The reservoir was once used as a quarry by the Irish Cement company but had recently been converted into an angling spot that was stocked with trout and other freshwater fish.

However, it is strictly off-limits to swimmers and the perimeter is surrounded by fencing.

"There are gates on to the site that are locked," a local resident said. "It's totally and utterly secured and it never would have dawned on me that a child would drown there."

Irish Water Safety spokesman John Leech said there had been about 10 drownings over the past six weeks alone.

During last year's July heatwave 13 people drowned on both sides of the border in just 14 days. "My heart goes out to his family," said Mr Leech.

Irish Independent

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