Emergency services worker slams those who videoed recovery of Limerick bodies

Tributes have been paid to the victims of a freak incident on the River Shannon yesterday in which two men lost their lives.

Emergency services worker slams those who videoed recovery of Limerick bodies

Tributes have been paid to the victims of a freak incident on the River Shannon yesterday in which two men lost their lives.

The men, who were stone masons from Co Clare and Co Kerry, had been standing in a cage platform while carrying out specialised remedial works on Thomond Bridge in Limerick City, when the platform plunged into the river around 3.45pm.

They have been named locally as Timothy "TJ" O'Herlihy, from Tullig, Castleisland, and Bryan Whelan, from Broadford, near O'Brien's Bridge, Co Clare.

TJ O'Herlihy and Bryan Whelan

A cable attached to a crane that had been holding the cage with the men inside snapped, sending the men and the platform into the river.

Mr O'Herlihy and Mr Whelan -- who were wearing life jackets that were attached to the cage -- were found trapped two feet under the surface by divers attached to Limerick Marine Search and Rescue Service (LMSRS) and Limerick City Fire Service.

The scene at Thomond Bridge in Limerick. Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22

A third man managed to free himself from his harness and was rescued floating along the river by LMSRS.

According to one of the divers involved in the emergency response, the two men had not succeeded in disconnecting their life jackets from the cage and effectively became trapped under the water.

A photograph has emerged of men working in the cage at Thomond Bridge last week.

'A terrible way to die'

Paying tribute, Bobby O'Connell, a local publican and Fine Gael councillor in Castleisland said: "TJ was prayed for at mass this morning. Everyone knows at this stage but last night we didn't know it was one of our own. It's horrific."

"We all saw it on the television last night not knowing a member of our own community was involved. It's gone from sad to horrific here in Castleisland.

"TJ had a great interest in rugby; he loved all sports. He had spent some time working in Scotland and he has children. I heard it was his first day on the job."

Mr O'Herlihy's father, Timothy senior, is a well-known member of the Munster Rugby Junior Committee and a delegate with the All-Ireland Junior Committee, who co-runs a panel-beating garage in Castleisland.

Fellow Munster Branch committee member John O'Brien, from Cork, said this afternoon: "I only heard it half an hour ago from one of my rugby friends. TJ had been working in Sweden, he was a stone mason.

"I got an awful shock when I heard, especially when you know the family and you know the way they died. It was a terrible way to die...I'll be phoning John later to pass on my sympathies.

According to sources Mr O'Herlihy, aged in his mid 30s, wasn't due to start work until Monday but got a call from his employer to start early.

"I heard he got an option of work in Dublin or Limerick, and unfortunately now, he went to Limerick. I suppose it was closer to home maybe," Cllr O'Connell added

Another source said: "He had been living in Stockholm with his wife or partner. She is still over in Sweden and he had come over here after getting a job working on the bridge."

Fr James Grace, PP, O'Brien's Bridge, Co Clare, who lives near Bryan Whelan, said: "He was living just outside the parish in Broadford. It's a terrible tragedy for the area, for the man's family.

"I said prayers at Mass this morning for him and his family. Everyone is shocked," he added.

Fr John Bane, PP Broadford, Co Clare said Bryan Whelan had recently returned to his native parish after previously working in Scotland with the Limerick-based bridge repair company Irish Bridge.

"Bryan's address is Leitrim, O'Brien's Bridge, in the parish of Broadford. He wasn't married. He was 29. He has two brothers and two sisters - Veronica the eldest, and Marie, John Paul, and Robert."

Fr Bane described Mr Whelan's parents John, and Margaret who works at a nursing home in Killaloe, as "amazingly brave people".

"They had to identify the body and they are trying to come to terms with it all. The suddenness of what happened hasn't hit them yet," said Fr Bane.

"They are in a state of shock but the neighbours around here are really great. They have been coming and going and doing their best to help the family."

"They are very quiet people, very good neighbours, and very well known in the Broadford parish. It's just awful. It seems it was a freak accident. It's difficult to know what happened really."

"It's hard for the family to react because it was such a shock. It's so fresh at the moment, it will take time for it to sink in."

Fr Bane said Mr Whelan's reposing would take place at McMahon's Funeral Home, Blackwater, Co Clare, from 6pm Monday evening, with removal at 8pm to St Mary's Church, Kilbane.

Mr Whelan's funeral Mass is scheduled to take place at midday with burial afterwards in Kilbane Church Cemetery.

The Broadford parish consists of Kilbane and Kilmore extending to Bridgetown near Killaloe.

Fr Dan O'Riordan, PP Castleisland, said prayers at Mass this morning for Mr O'Herlihy and his family.

Gardaí said post mortems are scheduled to be carried out this afternoon.

'People taking video should be prosecuted'

Tom Cusack, 33, his father Tony, 61 and Joe Morgan, 30, all specially trained divers with LMSRS, were first on the scene yesterday.

"When we arrived at the bridge the cage was submerged in the water," Tom Cusack said. "We could see the two casualties clearly. They were submerged about two feet under the surface.

"(They) were completely unresponsive," he added. "All of us in the marine rescue service want to pass on our deepest sympathies to the families of the two men who died."

Meanwhile, a source in the emergency services slammed members of the public who they said stood and videoed the recovery of the victims from the river.

"It's been very upsetting for all of us. There were people actually videoing it all. They should be prosecuted," the source said.

"There were people trying to save these guys lives and other people were videoing it. It's appalling. It's very hard."

The cage wreckage was raised last night and Thomond Bridge was reopened after it was closed for several hours.

A spokesperson for Limerick City Council said the remedial works on Thomond Bridge would be postponed for the foreseeable future.

Investigations are been carried out by the Health and Safety Authority and the Gardaí.

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