Tributes paid as body recovered from Kenmare Bay

Great sadness has been expressed at the death of a church warden after a boat capsized on Sunday in Kenmare Bay, where two men were planning a duck shoot.

Tributes paid as body recovered from Kenmare Bay

The body of Bill Topham, 55, was recovered yesterday morning. A second man survived after being rescued swimming towards the shore.

The pair had set out at around lunchtime from the old pier in Templenoe, in a Canadian-style open canoe. They were intending to go duck shooting on what was the last day of the shooting season.

The men were heading for Kelly’s Islands, a small group of islands on the Kenmare River, about 800m from where they set out.

The canoe reportedly capsized and the men were thrown in to the water. The incident was observed from the shoreline and the alarm was raised. Mr Topham’s companion managed to reach the shoreline of the island.

The Kenmare fire service, first on the scene, launched a boat and brought him to safety at around 3.20pm. He was taken to Kerry General Hospital in Tralee to be treated for hypothermia.

A large search had been conducted for Mr Topham, a noted strong swimmer. The Shannon Search and Rescue helicopter was at the scene, and was joined by units of inshore coastguard personnel from Castletownbere and Derrynane, along with hundreds of locals.

The search resumed before dawn yesterday and, by 7am, almost 300 people were involved. It was co-ordinated on the ground by Sgt Derek Fleming and two local volunteers, Brian Kelly and Chris Harrington, while Valentia Coast Guard continued to control the major search.

Around 9.30am, a diver located the body about 30m from where the canoe capsized.

The Church of Ireland rector in Kenmare, Rev Michael Cavanagh, said Mr Topham will be a huge loss to his family, Kenmare, and the Church.

He said the large search turnout was a mark of the absolute respect in which Mr Topham was held. “Bill knew everybody, and everybody knew him,” said Rev Cavanagh.

“Geraldine, Bill’s wife, would want to pay tribute to how professional the coastguard searchers were, and how sympathetic they had been. It was a comfort to the family his body had been found so quickly.”

Mr Topham had been glebe warden at St Patrick’s Church of Ireland and had looked after church buildings.

“We will miss him enormously,”said Rev Cavanagh.

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