VIDEO: Shannon bridge deaths ‘heartbreaking’

The company that employed two workers who drowned in a tragic accident on the River Shannon on Saturday has described their deaths as “heartbreaking”.

TJ Herlihy, aged 36, from Castleisland, Co Kerry, and Brian Whelan, aged 29, from O’Briens Bridge, Co Clare, were killed after a cage-like structure they were working on collapsed into the River Shannon at Thomond Bridge in Limerick.

Video: PRESS 22

The accident took place at 3.30pm on Saturday, when a cable attached to the cage-like structure suspended over the side of the bridge gave way, plunging the workers into the water.

A statement issued on behalf of Irish Bridge, Ballyengland, Askeaton, Co Limerick, which was contracted by Limerick City and County Council to carry out the repairs, read: “Irish Bridge would like to offer its sincerest sympathies to the families of Brian and TJ following this terrible tragedy.

“It’s heart-breaking. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, relatives, and friends at this very sad time.”

The company thanked all the emergency service personnel “for their professionalism”, adding: “We will, of course, co-operate fully with all authorities examining the incident. The company will not be making any further comment at this point.”

Both victims were wearing life jackets but were also in harnesses, which were attached to the cage when it fell into the water.

A third worker managed to release his harness and swim down river and raise the alarm.

VIDEO: Shannon bridge deaths ‘heartbreaking’

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

However, Mr Herlihy and Mr Whelan were trapped when the cage became submerged in the fast-flowing waters.

Rescue workers said the men were under water for at least 10 minutes without breathing equipment.

It is understood it was their first day on the job, which began last Monday and was due to take 10 weeks.

The victims were specialist workers employed by Irish Bridge, which specialises in bridge repair work.

The company was contracted by Limerick City and Council to carry out the remedial works to Thomond Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in the city.

It is expected that the strengthening works will be suspended for a number of weeks.

In a statement issued on behalf of Limerick City and County Council, a spokesman said the local authority is liaising with An Garda Siochana and the Health and Safety Authority in relation to the incident.

“Limerick City and County Council wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to the families and colleagues of the deceased,” added the spokesman.

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