A tragedy similar to the deaths of a family of five in Buncrana last March could happen at Foynes pier in the Shannon estuary if the pier remains in its current state and is not regularly cleaned, a senior member of the port town’s search and rescue service warned.
A thick green algae has formed on the public slipway at Foynes, making it extremely dangerous for the public to access.
Joe Moran of Foynes District Search and Rescue Service described the slipway as “treacherous”.
He said that, for decades, it was “custom and practice” that the Foynes Port authorities regularly maintained the slipway.
However, he said a slick of algae had built up on the slipway over several months, since it was last cleaned in the immediate aftermath of the Buncrana pier tragedy.
Calling for the Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC) to continue to regularly maintain the slipway, Mr Moran added: “We ended up having to clean it ourselves because it wasn’t being maintained. But, we had to stop cleaning it after our solicitor told us that we could be held liable in the event of any accidents after we had cleaned it.”
Responding to Mr Moran’s concerns, an SFPC spokesperson said: “The pier in question is in public ownership and its maintenance does not come under the remit of Shannon Foynes Port Company.”
Mr Moran warned: “You saw what happened above in Buncrana... Well, it’s quite capable of happening in Foynes.”
Last March, five family members perished in the sea in Co Donegal when their car slipped off Buncrana Pier, which was covered in algae.
Sean McGrotty, 49, his sons Mark, 12, and Evan, 8, along with his 59-year-old mother-in-law Ruth Daniels, and sister-in-law Jodi Lee Daniels, 14, all died. Four-month-old baby Rioghnach-Ann was saved when Mr McGrotty handed her out of an opening in one of the car’s windows to local man Davitt Walsh.
“We want the slipway to be cleaned anytime it gets dirty. We just want it safe,” Mr Moran warned.
A large mudbank has also built up around the slipway, which Mr Moran said is preventing the search and rescue service from responding to emergencies on the Shannon Estuary. Mr Moran said the rescue service has asked SFPC — which has responsibility for the waterways around Foynes — to dredge the area.
“The mud is denying us access to the pier for two and half hours either side of the low tide which means there are six hours [every day] where we can’t get into the tide if something goes wrong,” he added.
A spokesperson for SFPC said: “Dredging to and from [the slipway] is also not under our remit but we have dredged it in the past as a goodwill gesture.”
Limerick City and County Council said it has agreed to take over the maintenance of Foynes pier.
A spokesman said: “A clean-up of the slipway at the pier in Foynes is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. Staff will be applying a special algae removal spray onto the slipway at low tide. Special signs alerting users of the slipway warning them that the surface may be slippy are also being erected.
“The water at the bottom of the slipway in the port is heavily silted up. Shannon Foynes Port Company would have cleaned this up previously and [we] would expect that to continue in the future.”
Joe Moran at Foynes Pier and slipway, where a cover of slipperyalgae has been allowed to build up.
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