Lifebuoy missing at spot on Shannon where 15 year old drowned, inquest hears

The family of a 15-year-old boy who drowned in the River Shannon heard today how a lifebuoy which could have possibly saved their son's life had been removed by vandals.  

Lifebuoy missing at spot on Shannon where 15 year old drowned, inquest hears

Caolan Seoige Webster of St Patrick’s Terrace, Athlone, Co Westmeath died on June 11 2015.

A happy, sensitive teenager who adored football, Caolan had been swimming with friends in the River Shannon at a location known as Jim’s Field, close to the Athlone Sub Aqua Club when he got into difficulty.

His mother, Bernadette Seoige told Dublin Coroner’s Court he left home with a friend around 4pm on June 10 2015.

“He was heading off to play football but they met with other people and ended up swimming. He never went swimming,” Ms Seoige said.

She said her son was able to swim but was not a strong swimmer. He was interested in fitness and did press-ups at home, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.

“He’d no swimming gear with him because he hadn’t planned to go, he would always say where he was going,” Ms Seoige said.

The teenagers went for fast food where they met others and around 5pm the group decided to go swimming. It was a beautiful sunny day but it was early summer and the water temperature was 11 degrees, the court heard.

David Ward Quinn said four friends decided to swim to a dock ten metres from the shore but Caolan never made it.

“I turned and looked back and couldn’t see Caolan, I saw Bernie trying to pull him up from under, that was my last vision,” he said.

Darren Quinn, who was not present in court, said in his deposition that Caolan was halfway to the dock when he began to struggle. He and another teen, Bernie McDonagh went to help.

“We both tried to hold Caolan up and swim to shore with him but we were not moving,” he said.

Mr McDonagh went for the lifebuoy on the shore but it was missing. Garda Jonathan Noone said this was a common occurrence along the Shannon due to vandalism.

Athlone Sub Aqua Club divers Derry McMahon and Sergejs Cuetkous located the body along the river bed in three metres of water. It was not clear how long the boy had been submerged.

“Cold water can cause muscle problems if you are not used to that temperature,” Mr McMahon said. There was a strong current ‘that would not have helped as he’d have to swim across it,’ Mr McMahon added.

“He was taken out of the water in cardiac arrest,” paramedic George Williams said.

The ambulance team began life support immediately. The ambulance left Jim’s Field at 6.45pm and arrived at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe 12 minutes later. On arrival at

On arrival at hospital, Caolan’s temperature was 26 degrees. He was transferred to Temple Street Hospital that evening and his parents followed in their car. Caolan was pronounced dead the following day.

The cause of death was severe brain damage due to drowning. Speaking after the inquest, the family extended thanks to all first responders at the scene.

Coroner Dr Crona Gallagher adjourned the inquest to next February as family wish to hear from a further witness.

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