Lifebuoys cannot be placed on a bridge which is one of the country’s worst blackspots for suicides and drownings as it would be against the law, Limerick City and County Council has said.
Due to the number of people drowning from Sarsfield Bridge, Shannon Bridge, and Thomond Bridge, special 24/7 voluntary groups now patrol the riverside walkways.
Lifebuoys are located on Shannon Bridge and Thomond Bridge, but they cannot be placed on Sarsfield Bridge.
At a meeting of Limerick Metropolitan District, councillor Sean Lynch asked that buoys be placed on Sarsfield Bridge. He was told they could not be placed there due of the bridge’s historical stature.
“I met some visitors to the city in recent times who informed me they were walking on Sarsfield Bridge from their hotel on their way into the city centre,” he said. “As they made their way over the bridge, a man appeared and jumped onto the parapet and disappeared into the river.
“They looked for a lifebuoy to throw to him, but there was none. The nearest lifebuoys were located at both ends of the bridge more than 100m away.
“They felt so helpless and useless and just stood there and watched events unfold.
“If there was a lifebuoy, they told me, they could have done something. This incident happened right in front of their eyes. They could not understand why there was no lifebuoy. If one was thrown to the unfortunate man, he might have been saved.”
Mr Lynch said there were 50 lifebuoys located along the river adjacent to the city centre. A number were sited near Sarsfield Bridge, but as it was a protected structure Limerick City and County Council could not place lifebuoys on the bridge itself.
Mr Lynch said: “I put a notice of motion for today’s meeting to have lifebuoys placed on the bridge, but I am told by the officials this is not possible as lifebuoys cannot be attached to protected structures.
“It seems in a situation like this that protecting an ancient structure comes before protecting life. It isn’t as though some major alteration needs to be carried out on the bridge to fix locations for the buoys.
“Just putting lifebuoys in a visible location near the centre of the bridge would require a small addition to the bridge structure and could save life.
“They have placed lifebuoys on the Shannon Bridge and Thomond Bridge. Surely it is not beyond the capability of the council to come up with an acceptable design formula to have lifebuoys on Sarsfield Bridge?”
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