Two men have died following accident while carrying out maintenance works at bridge on River Shannon
Two men have been killed in a freak accident on the River Shannon this evening
The men were carrying out maintenance works on Thomond Bridge when a cable attached to a crane that was holding a cage in which they were standing in apparently snapped.
The cage was quickly released from the crane and crashed into the river, trapping the men under the surface.
According to a source the two men were trapped inside the cage under the water for a number of minutes before rescue divers could reach them.
A third man who had been in the cage at the time managed to free himself while under the surface and swim to safety.
The shocking incident sparked a major emergency operation involving the Shannon-based Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter, Limerick City Fire Service and the Limerick Marine Search and Rescue Service.
"There were three men in a cage doing pointing work on the outside of Thomond Bridge. The cage snapped on a crane system and went into the water," said a source.
"They were all trapped in the cage under the water."
"One got free and was taken to hospital for observation."
"The other two men were not so fortunate. They were taken from the cage by divers from the Limerick Marine Search and Rescue Service and the swift water rescue swimmers from Limerick Fire Service."
"They were unconscious."
One of the two is understood to have suffered a cardiac arrest before been brought to hospital.
The two critically injured men were taken from the water and handed immediately to HSE paramedics who were waiting in an ambulance.
Despite valiant efforts to resuscitate the men at the scene and later again at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) they lost their lives.
The men were pronounced dead at UHL shortly before 5pm this evening.
"It's really shocking. It's such an unusual thing to have happened," said a source.
"It's incredibly sad. I can't imagine what these men's families are going to be feeling," they added.
According to a source the three men were wearing life jackets and fall arresting safety harnesses generally used in line rescues or by anyone working from dangerous heights.
Thomond Bridge has been closed by Gardai.
A number of surrounding streets including Clancy Strand back towards Island Road are also closed.
Gardai and the Health and Safety Authority are to conduct investigations into the incident.