Inquest scheduled into deaths of Limerick bridge workers

The crane which caused deaths of two workers when a safety mechanism failed.

AN inquest has been scheduled into the deaths of two men who died after a platform they were working on plunged into the River Shannon in Limerick City eight years ago.

The office of the Limerick City Coroner has confirmed the inquest into the deaths of Bryan Whelan and TJ O’Herlihy will be held in Kilmallock Courthouse on April 26.

The two stonemasons had been carrying out restoration works on Thomond Bridge when a safety mechanism on a crane failed as it held the men in a platform over the side of the bridge.

Mr Whelan (29) from O’Briensbridge, Co Clare and Mr O’Herlihy (36) from Castleisland, Co Kerry, who were harnessed on to the platform and wearing lifejackets, were unable to free themselves from the structure after it sank in the river on August 29, 2015.

A third man, Paul Murphy from Askeaton, managed to free himself and was rescued by emergency service personnel in the Shannon Estuary.

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The crane operator, Naionwide Crane Hire Ltd, Dock Road, Limerick, and the crane supplier, Palfinger Ireland Ltd, Church Hill, Cloncollog, Tullamore, admitted breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court last October.

Palfinger pleaded guilty to failing to ensure it provided Nationwide with the adequate information about the crane and its safety mechanisms.

The court heard the company unwittingly supplied Nationwide with a user manual that was missing a chapter on the importance of frequently conducting safety tests on the crane’s overload protection system.

Nationwide admitted it failed to ensure Mr Herlihy and Mr Whelan were not exposed to safety risks, and that it failed to ensure the crane was safe, particularly the overload protection system.

Fines of €200,000 and €25,000 were imposed on Nationwide and Palfinger respectively.

Mr O’Herlihy’s partner, Therese “Tess” Wigsten, wrote in a victim impact statement that their two young children, Katie (7), and Conor (10), who needs full-time care, “lost one of the most important persons in their life, their Dad. Katie didn’t even get to know him and will never experience how it is to be  ‘Daddy’s girl’”.

Bryan Whelan’s brother, John Paul Whelan, told the court his family have been “haunted” by the tragedy, he said Thomond Bridge is a “constant, painful reminder of the devastating and disastrous events of that day”.