Coroner calls for Fermoy river safety

A coroner is to write to a town council telling it to erect a barrier between a popular walkway and a major river to prevent any more late night revellers falling in and drowning.

Dr Michael Kennedy said he would write to Fermoy Town Council following a series of drownings that might have been prevented if there was proper lighting and a barrier on the banks of the River Blackwater.

The coroner made his comments in Mallow yesterday at the inquest into the death of a married man who had fallen into the river after having a lot to drink.

The inquest heard that on Oct 15, Paul Wharton, aged 32, from 26 Glencullen, Fermoy, dropped his wife, Ellen, and some of her relatives of to a show at Cork Opera House.

He told his wife that he would probably go for a few drinks when he got home.

Mrs Wharton stayed with relatives in Watergrasshill that night and when she returned home the following day she became concerned that her husband was not there. She contacted friends and then the gardaí.

Mr Wharton’s first cousin Sean Kearney said that he met him that evening. They had a significant amount to drink, he said, and described Mr Wharton as “fairly well oiled” when he last saw him at 2.30am on Oct 16.

His body was recovered from the River Blackwater, near the town’s rowing club, the following afternoon.

Sgt James Hallinan said that Mr Wharton probably got disorientated and fell into the river. He could not swim. Sgt Hallinan said lighting in the area was almost non-existent and there had been other drownings in recent years.

Assistant state pathologist Dr Margot Bolster said Mr Wharton had a high alcohol level in his blood, which would have affected “his balance and his judgment orientation”. She said he died of acute respiratory failure due to drowning and had some minor injuries consistent with a fall.

Dr Kennedy said there had been similar drownings at Barnane. “I am going to write to Fermoy Town Council to ask them to do a health and safety study in the area. I will suggest that they put up more lights and give cognisance to putting up a barrier in the area.” He recorded an open verdict.


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