Companies face sentencing over deaths of Limerick bridge workers 

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The platform in which the two men drowned being raised from the River Shannon.

A COURT is expected to hear details tomorrow (Wednesday) of the circumstances that led to two men drowning as they carried out work on Thomond Bridge in Limerick City six years ago.

Father-of-two Tim TJ O’Herlihy (36) from Castleisland, Co Kerry and Bryan Whelan (29) from O’Briensbridge, Co Clare, died when they were trapped in a steel platform in the River Shannon on August 29, 2015.

The men were working in the cage-like platform that was held by a wire attached to a winch-crane and suspended over the side of the bridge.

They were both wearing life-jackets and harnessed into the platform when it fell into the river.

They were unable to escape and drowned.

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A third worker who was on the platform when it entered the river, Paul Murphy, managed to escape and was rescued by members of Limerick Marine Search and Rescue and Limerick City and County Fire Service.

Following investigations by Gardaí­ and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), criminal charges were brought against Nationwide Crane Hire Ltd of Dock Road, Limerick, as well as Palfinger Ireland Ltd, of Church Hill, Cloncollog, Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Last March representatives of both companies pleaded guilty to breaching the Health, Welfare and Safety at Work Act, 1989 and 2005.

Details of what happened prior to and after the fatal incident are expected to be heard at a sentencing hearing at Limerick Circuit Court tomorrow (Wednesday).

The court previously heard that Palfinger supplied the winch-fitted crane to Nationwide Crane Hire Ltd (formerly known as Cussen Crane Hire Limited) at its premises at Dock Road, Limerick, on March 12, 2003.

Luke Carbery, representing Palfinger, admitted that they failed to take steps that were necessary to ensure that Nationwide Crane Hire Ltd was provided with adequate information about the use for which the crane and winch had been designed or tested.

The charge stated that Palfinger failed to properly inform the crane-hire company about the winch crane’s safety protocols, and a functional test of the crane’s safety overload protection systems.

Nationwide Crane Hire Ltd admitted that on August 29, 2015 they failed to ensure that the workers were not exposed to risks to their safety, health and welfare, and that the crane was in a safe condition, and “as a consequence TJ O’Herlihy and Bryan Whelan suffered personal injury and died”.

Prosecuting counsel Shane Costelloe described it as a “tragic incident where two men lost their lives and a third was swept out along the river Shannon to the ocean before being rescued”.

Mr Costelloe indicated that the sentencing hearing would take a number of hours, and that the State would be producing the crane as an exhibit.

Judge Tom O’Donnell said he would inspect the crane at the Limerick courts complex before he passes sentence.