Thomond Bridge tragedy inspired Cork students to create lifesaving innovation

Thomond Bridge tragedy inspired Cork students to create lifesaving innovation

Students at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), who were inspired by a double workplace tragedy, have won a top innovation award for inventing a lifesaving device to prevent workers from getting trapped underwater and drowning, writes Eoin English.

The students said they hope their HydroFLOcean device will ensure the tragedy in Limerick last year can never happen again.

TJ O’Herlihy and Bryan Whelan died after their work platform collapsed as they were carrying out maintenance works on Thomond Bridge and plunged into the River Shannon in August 2015.

They were unable to free themselves from their harnesses and they drowned still tethered to the platform.

The new HydroFLOcean (H-FLO) device has been designed to separate the user from a work platform when it is submerged in water.

It is attached to the worker’s harness on one side and to the safety cable connecting to the maintenance platform on the other. It uses the same inflation device used in life jackets to activate a gas canister once it hits water.

The canister fires and uses pressure to force a pin out, causing the device to split in two, which in turn separates the user from the sinking platform.

The lifesaving potential of the device helped the team win the Irish leg of the 2016 James Dyson Award.

Eight CIT students — seven engineering and one business — developed the concept and built a working prototype.

Project manager Arran Coughlan, 27, from Mahon in Cork City, who oversaw the team of Shane O’Driscoll, Gerard O’Connell, Kelly Lane, George O’Rourke, John Harrington, Jason Shorten, and Kacey Mealy, said they were driven to act in the wake of the Limerick tragedy.

“It had only happened a couple of weeks before college started back, so it was pretty fresh in our minds. We were tasked with coming up with an innovative device, and it all took off from there,” he said.

They built a prototype in the engineering workshop at CIT, and have put it through rigorous testing.

They now hope to find new markets where the technology can be applied — they believe it could save lives in the automotive and marine industries, particularly offshore oil rigging.

Thomond Bridge tragedy inspired Cork students to create lifesaving innovation

The device has seen the team win the CIT 2016 prize for innovation and the prestigious Cruickshank Intellectual Property Attorneys award.

They now go forward to compete against teams from 22 counties for the overall James Dyson Award, and the top prize of €35,000.

Dyson engineers will announce the finalists this month, and the overall winner will be selected and announced by James Dyson on October 27.

Mr Dyson, who made his fortune from the vacuum cleaner which bears his name, founded the awards scheme to find young people who could change the world through engineering.

Four other inventions in the mix

Four other Irish student inventions have been shortlisted for the international stage of the James Dyson competition.

Mark Boda, from UL, has invented the OmniDryer, which uses 60 times less electricity than a standard dryer and is almost silent.

Matthew Gaughran, from DIT, has invented the SI personal alert and emergency alarm watch which allows users to send a text message alert for help.

Fellow DIT student, Greg Butler, has invented Orb Induction, a three-shelve station which uses induction to power mobile phone cases, which can then be used to power mobiles.

Philip Campion, also from DIT, has invented Infinite Charge, a gyroscopic portable energy-harvesting charger for mobile phones.

This story first appeared in the

Read More:
Irish Examiner.

More in this Section

Book of evidence prepared against member of gardaíBook of evidence prepared against member of gardaí

Woman's hotel stay in Cork ends in arrest after teacups and glasses thrown at the wallWoman's hotel stay in Cork ends in arrest after teacups and glasses thrown at the wall

Teen wrapped chain around knuckles for assaultTeen wrapped chain around knuckles for assault

Virgin Media staff vote 'overwhelmingly' for industrial action over job cutsVirgin Media staff vote 'overwhelmingly' for industrial action over job cuts


As David Attenborough announces new series on plants, we run down some of the weird and wonderful vegetation he might include.11 bizarre plant species from around the world

The weather’s always going to be a key factor on any wedding day — but especially so when the bride works for Met Éireann, writes Eve Kelliher.Wedding of the week: Bride and groom are literally on cloud nine

My wife and I are in our fifties and she has just started using porn. She thinks it will enhance our sex life if we watch it together, but I find the idea a total turn-off.Suzi Godson's Sex Advice: My wife wants us to watch porn together?

As you probably have heard by now, changes to the rules concerning gift vouchers in Ireland came into effect earlier this month, giving consumers more rights when it comes to these popular items.Making Cents: Play your cards right when giving gift vouchers this Christmas

More From The Irish Examiner