Don’t judge rescued couple, begs tragic hero’s dad

THE father of a man lost at sea pleaded with people last night not to judge the couple whose decision to swim in rough sea conditions on Sunday led to a rescue attempt that cost his son his life.

Liam Herlihy, father of 22-year-old Jonathan, said any disrespect shown to the couple his son helped save was disrespectful to the two men who helped save them.

The couple, who were named yesterday as Cliona Murphy and Lee Fuller, got into difficulty near rocks just off Owenahincha Beach on Sunday afternoon.

Sea conditions were known to be rough at the time.

Jonathan Herlihy and Peter O’Keeffe, 36, who were walking separately on the beach, rushed into the water to help them.

They managed to get a lifebuoy to the struggling couple.

The swimmers clung to the lifebuoy and were washed ashore a short time later.

But Peter and Liam were swept away by three huge waves.

Peter’s body was recovered on Tuesday evening in about 30 metres of water close to the spot where he was last seen.

The search for Jonathan’s body was focused yesterday in the same area.

Four trawlers, including the Gaia, skippered by Seanie Harrington and which found Peter’s body, were in the area again, backed up by smaller vessels, jet skis and teams of naval and garda divers.

Standing above Owenahincha Beach, Mr Herlihy said people should not judge the couple whose lives were saved.

“Any disrespect shown to them is a disrespect shown to the two people who saved their lives, including my son,” he said.

Ms Murphy is said to be devastated and still very shocked by the incident.

Her mother said she wished she could have drowned herself.

Mr Herlihy said while the O’Keeffe family have had contact from Ms Murphy, he himself has had no contact.

“But that’s fine. I do plan to contact her myself soon. But right now, all my attention is focused on there, and on getting Jonathan back,” he said, pointing to the sea.

Weather conditions improved significantly yesterday and good visibility allowed the Rescue 117 helicopter from Waterford to conduct a detailed survey of the coastline from Galley Head to Rosscarbery Bay.

Liam, along with his wife Eileen, their son Chris, and Liam’s parents were bolstered by the fact that hundreds of volunteers continued to stream down to the beach to help in whatever way they could.

Members of the O’Keeffe family were also still on the beach in a remarkable show of solidarity with the Herlihys.

Mr Herlihy said their support was tremendous.

“There we were, two families who were strangers until Sunday, now we’re the best of friends,” he said.

He also issued an emotional thank-you for the support the families have received since Sunday.

He praised the people of Rosscarbery, Clonakilty, Ballincollig and Glanmire, the coastguard, civil defence teams, local fishermen and the hundreds of volunteers who have helped with the recovery effort.

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