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Two brothers die in diving accident at former quarry

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Tragic scene: The quarry in Portroe, Co Tipperary where two men were found drowned. Photograph Press 22

Tragic scene: The quarry in Portroe, Co Tipperary where two men were found drowned. Photograph Press 22

Tragic scene: The quarry in Portroe, Co Tipperary where two men were found drowned. Photograph Press 22

Two brothers have tragically died in a diving accident at a former quarry in Co Tipperary.

They were last night named locally as Fergus (43) and Philip Brophy (34), from Ballybrittas, Co Laois.

The tragedy unfolded at the Portroe Dive Centre, located at Portroe Quarry, near Nenagh, about 1.30pm yesterday.

The bodies of the brothers were later removed from the scene to Limerick University Hospital where post-mortem examinations were expected to take place.

After the alarm was raised, a major search and rescue operation swung into action involving the Killaloe Coast Guard, gardaí, and ambulance personnel.

Members of Killaloe Coast Guard, who were returning to their base from another call-out, immediately responded to the alert at the quarry.

The Coast Guard Search and Rescue Helicopter, based at Shannon Airport, was tasked to respond to the emergency.

However, the crew was stood down after the bodies of both divers were recovered and they were pronounced dead at the scene.

Gardaí from the local station at Nenagh responded to the incident. A Garda spokesman said: "Gardaí attended an incident in Portroe, Co Tipperary, where two males have drowned.

Experienced

"The males are believed to have been diving when they got into trouble at approximately 1.30pm.

"The bodies of both men have been removed to Limerick University Hospital where [post-mortem examinations] are due to take place."

Garda sources said they were treating the incident as a "tragic accident".

A source confirmed to the Irish Independent that the deceased brothers were experienced divers.

"No one was expecting this," the source said.

"They were experienced divers but what exactly happened I can't say for sure.

"A lot of divers come from around the country to attend the dive centre in Portroe.

"There are a lot of members locally but a lot of people visit. It's known as a good place to practise diving."

According to reports, one of the men got into difficulty in the water and his brother entered the water to try to help after raising the alarm.

It is understood that one of the brothers managed to return to the surface of the former slate quarry, which is 40 metres deep, but died a short time later.

The other man died before he was brought to the surface.

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Authority said it was also "looking into the circumstances of the tragedy" as it occurred at a workplace.

However, the workplace safety regulator will be involved only if employees of the facility were involved in the incident, a spokesman told the Irish Independent.

Local Independent councillor Seamus Morris described the incident as "a tragedy for the men's families and all involved at the dive centre.

"As a dive centre, it's used by local divers and it has always been very professionally run. Obviously, my sympathies go to the men's families and the dive club.

"I don't know what happened, but diving is a sport that, unfortunately, has serious consequences if things don't go right," Mr Morris added.

Officials from the dive centre declined to comment last night.

However, a post on its Facebook page last week announced that the centre was due to reopen at the weekend, after having closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to its website, Portroe Quarry is "one of the best inland dive locations in Ireland" and is "always diveable regardless of weather conditions".

Irish Independent