Communities in South-East Clare are united in mourning following the death of a Broadford bricklayer in a tragic accident on Saturday afternoon.
Bryan Whelan (29) and T J O’Herlihy from Castleisland were killed, when the cage-like structure they were working in plunged under water near Thomond Bridge in Limerick City.
The men were working on repointing the stonework on the bridge in a cage, which was suspended from the bridge with a cable that snapped. They were connected to the cage via a harness and were unable to free themselves. All three were wearning lifejackets.
A third man, Paul Murphy (36) from Askeaton, managed to free himself and survived, raising the alarm in the process.While Mr Murphy managed to free himself, it is reported the other two were under the water for up to ten minutes.
It is understood that the cage came within a few feet of the surface of the water but the two men couldn’t be freed in time, despite the best efforts of emergency services.
Joint investigations, carried out by the Health and Safety Authority and gardaí, are now underway.
The two men were removed from the water by Limerick City Fire and Rescue Service, with the assistance of Limerick Marine Search and Rescue.They were unresponsive when they were removed by ambulance to University Hospital Limerick, where they were pronounced dead.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Whelan’s family, his sister-in-law, Maura Whelan, said, Bryan was a “true gentleman”.
“We are just heartbroken by the tragic loss of Bryan. He was a fantastic son, brother, uncle,” Ms Whelan said, speaking at the family home in Leitrim, Bridgetown. “He was a true gentleman, who would drop everything at a moment’s notice should you need him.
“Bryan’s level of determination matched the demanding job nature of his job, which he took great pride in. He lived life to the fullest, and will be sadly missed by us, and his wide circle of friends.”
Ms Whelan, who is married to Mr Whelan’s brother, John Paul, added, “Our thoughts are also with the O’Herlihy family at this immensely tough time.”
Family friend, P J Mason said the community were “devastated” with the loss of such a popular man from a well known family.
He said Whelan’s death was tragic considering he had followed all the necessary health and safety procedures by wearing a lifejacket.
Bryan Whelan, who was the middle child of John and Margaret, Whelan, Bridgetown, O’Briensbridge, learned his blocklaying skills and completed his apprenticeship for a number of years with a local bricklayer, the late Tommy Bentley.
The former Broadford hurler joined Irish Bridge in Askeaton and worked on repairing bridges all over Ireland and the United Kingdom, including a recent job in Aberdeen and the Shetland Islands.
He played at full forward on the Broadford team that was defeated by Crusheen in the All-Ireland U-21 “B” hurling final in 2007.
Broadford manager, Danny Chaplin said Bryan was a physical strong hurler who was good to get a score, having played with the club from U-14 to U-21 level.
Mr Chaplin said Broadford GAA club was shocked with this “awful tragedy” and noted the deceased socialised with his friends on a regular basis in the village.
Mr Whelan is mourned by his father, John; mother, Margaret; brothers and sisters, Maria, John Paul, Robert and Veronica, relatives and friends.
His remains will be reposing at Mc Mahon Funeral Home Blackwater this Monday evening from 6pm with removal at 8pm to Kilbane Church.
Funeral Mass takes place on Tuesday at 12 noon, with burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.