Fionn O’Driscoll, six, and his father Finbarr were being comforted by family and friends in the Borlin Valley, near Bantry, Co Cork, last night after a double tragedy claimed the life of Finbarr’s wife, Orla, 33, and Muire, their three-year-old daughter.
A post mortem carried out on their bodies at Cork University Hospital last night confirmed the cause of death as drowning.
They died after Mrs O’Driscoll’s Mitsubishi jeep was swept away as she tried to drive across a swollen ford just yards from her Meelleen Farm home at about 1.45pm on Thursday.
Mrs O’Driscoll, originally from Bishopstown, managed to get Fionn out of the jeep as the Derryduff river, a tributary of the Coomhola, swamped the vehicle.
She tried to pass Muire to him but he was unable to hold her. Mrs O’Driscoll then told Fionn to get help.
The junior infant Gaelscoil Bheantraí pupil walked over a mile down a winding road, before turning right onto the Ballylickey to Kilgarvan Road, heading towards Ballylickey, in a desperate attempt to get help.
Meanwhile, his mother and sister were swept away by the Derryduff.
Fionn was soaked to the skin, had lost a shoe and was sobbing when he was spotted wandering along the road by sisters Claire, 18, and Vickey Flynn, 19, just after 2pm.
They returned to the scene yesterday.
“We just saw this little child crying on the side of the road. We drove past but decided to reverse to see if he was alright. He was in an awful state,” Vickey said.
“People in the area are still in shock,” Claire said.
A cuddly toy was left alongside the Coomhola yesterday near where Mrs O’Driscoll and Muire’s bodies were recovered just yards from each other.
Flowers had also been left on the river banks.
The battered jeep was removed from a steep gully downstream from the ford early yesterday morning.
The gate into Meelleen Farm was closed by lunchtime as neighbours rallied to support the grieving family.
Neighbour Patjoe Daly, who helped in the search, pointed to the spot where Mrs O’Driscoll’s body was found.
“The community is just trying to come to terms with this,” he said.
“People are traumatised and shocked. It’s not easy to get on with life after something like this. You don’t forget memories like this,” he said.
Trampled grass and specially cut gaps in the ditch were the only signs yesterday of the frantic efforts that had been made in the rescue operation.
Shopkeeper Teddy O’Brien said rivers in the area were raging torrents on Thursday. He described the O’Driscolls as a wonderful family. “They were only in the area for about nine months.
“You could see they are decent, hard-working people.
“She was in and out with the kids and came across to me as a brilliant mother.
“People are numb, we are a small, close community and, thanks be to God, we’re not used to this kind of thing. Our hearts go out to Finbarr, Fionn and all their extended family.
“It’s a shadow that will be over our community for a long, long time.”
Mr O’Brien, chairman of Coomhola Anglers Association, also said he would ask members to abstain from fishing the Coomhola for the remainder of the season, as a mark of respect.
The board of management at Gaelscoil Bheanntraí expressed its deepest sympathies to the O’Driscoll family yesterday.
“The school community is in shock and counselling is being arranged for the pupils and staff,” principal Seán Ó Briain said.
lRosary mass for Orla and Muire O’Driscoll will be held tomorrow evening at 6pm at Coakley’s funeral home, Chapel Street, Bantry, Co Cork. The removal will be on Monday at 8pm to St Finbarr’s Church with the funeral mass at 11am on Tuesday to Abbey Cemetery, Bantry.