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Boatman drowned trying to rescue stranded friend

THE family of a man who drowned as he went to the aid of a fellow boating enthusiast say they want him to be remembered "for his kindness."

The inquest into the death of Stephen Fergus (48), of Waterview, Lower Point Road, Dundalk, heard he left his home on a Sunday afternoon to go to help his friend who was stuck on his boat off the Dundalk coast.

His widow Lisa said Stephen's mobile rang at about 3.50pm and it was his friend Pat O'Brien, who was having trouble with his boat.

Stephen put on his waders and overalls and left the house. He left his mobile phone behind and at 4.15pm Lisa answered it -- it was Pat and he said Stephen had not arrived.

With their daughters Erin (16) and Amy (14), Lisa went to Soldiers Point to look for him.


Mr O'Brien told Dundalk Coroners Court that earlier that day Mr Fergus had pulled his boat alongside "he tied the boats together and we chatted for about half an hour."

Afterwards, Mr O'Brien headed towards Dundalk Bay and when he returned towards the shore, he realised, "I had to anchor where I was, which meant I wouldn't have been able to get off my boat for three or four hours on account of the depth of the water."

He decided to ring Stephen and ask him to "give me a lift off my boat using his boat ... Stephen agreed and said he would be over shortly."

The inquest heard Mr Fergus had taken a punt belonging to another boatman, to take him out to his own boat.

Just after 6pm, Drogheda Coastguard recovered Mr Fergus's body, submerged on mussel beds off Dundalk.

Pathologist Dr Helen Barrett said he had drowned. Asked by the family if a number of small cuts on his face meant he could have fallen getting out of the punt, she said "it was not possible to say specifically".

The coroner returned a verdict of accidental death and said it had been "a terrible, terrible accident. He loved messing round in boats and got a call to help a friend and that is what he was going to do. "He was in a very small punt and may have overbalanced -- we just don't know. It was a pure, tragic accident."

Speaking afterwards, Lisa Fergus said the family would like him to be "remembered for being a good family man and for his kindness."