Shane Murphy, aged 21, of Grange Park, Baldoyle in Dublin, went kayaking with three friends in Co Wicklow on November 13, 2014.
A member of the Wildwater Kayak Club in Chapelizod with seven years of experience, Shane capsized as he navigated fast-flowing rapids on the River Inchavore, which feeds into Lough Dan. He righted himself multiple times, but became unconscious and was later found out of his kayak, trapped in a tree and partly submerged.
The group paddled a 4km section of the River Dargle before making their way through the Sally Gap to the Inchavore. Following heavy rain overnight and through the morning, the river was full and fast flowing.
“We knew if we were going to get something to run it would be up there,” kayaker Phillip Connolly told Dublin Coroner’s Court.
The rapids were classed as grade 4-5 on a scale where grade 6 carries a significant risk of serious injury.
All four kayakers gauged the river to be within their capabilities. “We all walked the bank checking for hazards and obstacles,” Shane’s cousin Alan Murphy said. But within 20 minutes the group were in difficulty, according to Mr Connolly.
On exiting the section of rapids, Shane Murphy had entered an area of churning water known within the sport as a hydraulic stopper, ‘like a washing machine’ where he capsized and lost control, Mr Connolly said.
“He rolled up and went straight into the next section of rapids, he was going into a very hard stage there, the next rapids were more difficult, it just caught him out.”
Shane Little, the only kayaker to have paddled the river previously, said the first section of the rapids was a “challenge but no one was struggling”.
“I was waiting for others to join me in the eddy, Shane was paddling towards me, out of the corner of my eye I saw him capsize,” he said.
Mr Little paddled to the edge and climbed onto the river bank, ready to throw a rope to Shane Murphy as he passed.
“When he came past he was out of the kayak, face down, unconscious,” he said.
The group split to find a phone signal to contact emergency services and search for Shane.
Irish Coastguard Search and Rescue pilot Captain Gareth Collins received a call at 3.50pm. Hovering 80ft above the river, the rescue services winched the injured kayaker on board and administered CPR.
Shane Murphy was later pronounced dead at Tallaght Hospital. The cause of death was revealed as drowning and hypothermia.
Returning a verdict of death by misadventure, coroner Dr Brian Farrell said: “He got into difficulty, the conditions were rough and difficult, he may have been disorientated, he may have been fatigued, he may have knocked his head and been concussed. I don’t know,” said Dr Farrell.