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Tuesday 20 February 2018

Water safety chiefs fear more will die this summer

* Worst weekend for drowning deaths on record

Joe Grinsell’s (65) body was recovered from a slate quarry (left) near Ahenny
Joe Grinsell’s (65) body was recovered from a slate quarry (left) near Ahenny
Conor Cunningham (24) originally from Clonmel but living in Donegal drowned while swimming near Maghera near Ardara
Daniel Harding (19) of Hazelwood Park in Elphin drowned in lake near Strokestown
Kyle Roche who died off the coast of Youghal on July 11
Abayomi Adefabi, 16, died in the Liffey outside Celbridge on July 10
Lisa Knight (21) drowned following midnight swim in River Feale near Abbeyfeale on July 9
Mateusz Prorok (26) from Poland got into difficulty while swimming at Knocknagarton lake near Virginia. Pronounced dead in Cavan general hospital

Sam Griffin and  Allison Bray

WATER safety chiefs fear more lives will be lost during the warm weather after the worst weekend for drowning deaths on record.

Three people lost their lives since Friday, bringing the death toll to 11 over the past month.

The deaths have ranged in age, from a 10-year-old boy who was swept away in Youghal earlier this month to Joe Grinsell (65) whose body was recovered from a flooded quarry yesterday.

There were dozens more near misses as the Irish Coast Guard recorded one of its busiest weekends ever, with around 30 incidents reported.

Irish Water Safety spokesman Rodger Sweeney said he feared even more drowning incidents before the warm spell ends. "We need a sea change in attitude towards the water and how we view water safety," he said.

"If we can instill the skills and attitudes around water, it will also reduce the burden on rescue services," he said.

He spoke as a major rescue operation was under way in Wicklow harbour yesterday evening. A man in his 30s was taken by air ambulance to hospital in Tallaght after being pulled from the water.

Three people earlier died in separate incidents at the weekend, in Counties Kerry, Donegal and Tipperary.

UNCONSCIOUS

Mr Grinsell's body was recovered from water in an old slate quarry near the Tipperary-Kilkenny border at around 9.30am yesterday morning after he had been reported missing the evening before.

Mr Grinsell, from Ahenny, was described by locals as a "fitness fanatic" and was heavily involved with Clonmel Athletic Club who he had competed for very recently.

His cousin Gary said: "Joe's love of running and cycling was known all over the county where scarcely a day would pass that someone, somewhere would receive a salute and a warm smile from him as he made his way around the local roads."

In Donegal, a 24-year-old man died after he got into difficulty while swimming at Maghera near the seaside town of Ardara, a notorious danger-spot for swimmers.

Conor Cunningham, originally from Clonmel in Tipperary, was airlifted to Letterkenny General Hospital shortly after 2pm after his Brazilian girlfriend tried to give him CPR.

"The rescue services said the girl had done all she could when they got there. Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough," Stephen McCahill, who lives locally, told the Irish Independent.

However Mr Cunningham, who has two children from a previous relationship, was pronounced dead a short time after being admitted at the hospital.

One of his former teachers recalled a "lovely young boy who had a great personality and was well-liked by all" from his time in nearby Crannogbois National School which overlooks the Maghera channel where he died.

"He was a great wee brother and was well liked. He had a great personality and was very good at art," said the teacher, who did not want to be named.

Conor's death is the second tragedy to strike his family. An older sister died in a road accident in Florida five years ago.

The youngest victim of the three who died over the weekend was Cian O'Donoghue (20), whose body was recovered from Lough Leane in Killarney, Co Kerry, last Friday evening.

Cian, from Gortahoosh in the parish of Glenflesk, about 8km from Killarney, had been swimming with a friend in the largest of the Killarney lakes when he got into trouble. His friend raised the alarm after he reached the shore but couldn't see the Killarney Towers Hotel employee anywhere in the water.

"He was a lovely young boy. He was outgoing and interacted very well with other pupils. He was very well liked in the school," said local councillor Michael Gleeson, who used to teach Keith in the Monastery National School in Killarney.

And in Co Tyrone, the body of James Kincaid (24) was recovered from the Shrule Rivers in Newtownstewart on Saturday evening. Another man with Mr Kincaid had to be rescued from the same river.

Irish Coast Guard manager Declan Geoghegan said deaths from drowning were up 30pc from this time last year, and much of this was down to the good weather.

He said people needed to be more responsible when taking to the water, particularly those using leisure craft like surfboards, dinghies, and inflatable lilos. In addition to the tragic drownings, there were a series of near misses.

A 52-year-old man was airlifted from waters in the southern end of Lough Allen in Co Leitrim by a Coast Guard helicopter after an unpowered boast he was operating with his wife drifted away from him.

In Kerry, a Ballybunion rescue boat saved two children after their inflatable rubber ring floated a mile out to sea. The children, aged seven and 10, were brought back to shore uninjured.

Later, members of the same unit rescued a female swimmer who got into difficulty near Virgin Rock in Ballybunion.

A girl celebrating her 14th birthday was recovering in hospital after she was knocked unconscious after diving from a 60ft (18m) ledge near the Diamond Rocks in Kilkee, Co Clare, yesterday.

Irish Independent

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