Online gamer died on Poolbeg Pier ‘capture’ mission, inquest hears

Ingress player Frank Maxwell (48) drowned after visiting pier at 2.30am, coroner rules

A player of an online game requiring physical visits to landmark sites died during a late-night mission to Poolbeg Pier, an inquest in Dublin has heard.  File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A player of an online game requiring physical visits to landmark sites died during a late-night mission to Poolbeg Pier, an inquest in Dublin has heard. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A player of an online game requiring physical visits to landmark sites died during a late-night mission, an inquest in Dublin has heard.

Frank Maxwell (48), of Portacarran, Oughterard, Co Galway, was playing Ingress, an augmented reality game that involves “capturing” landmark buildings, or “portals”, for points, when he died.

Mr Maxwell, a father-of-one who was originally from Dublin and worked in the capital during the week, was found in the water next to Poolbeg Pier at about noon on September 25th last.

He had gone to the pier at 2.30am on September 25th on a mission to redo some work undone by Ingress opponents, the inquest heard.

Teammates said he checked in at the pier on Google Hangouts at 2.31am and remarked that it was cold. He was not heard from again.

Mr Maxwell’s wife Alma Joyce said he was one of the top Ingress players in Ireland. She said he loved the game and talked about it often.

He was a night owl who loved driving, nature and the outdoors and was a “proud protective father” to their son Lucas.

“Lucas brought him pure joy. He was a beautiful, intelligent, independent soul and he had a great laugh. Life is a living nightmare without him,” Ms Joyce said in her deposition.

Det John Paul Marrinan said he, Mr Maxwell and others were “linking portals” as part of the Ingress game at sites between Tyrrelstown, Rockabill in Skerries and Poolbeg lighthouse on the night of September 24th, 2015.

They completed their task by 11pm but Mr Maxwell went out to Poolbeg Pier later that night after an opposition team “undid some of their work”.

Mr Marrinan said Mr Maxwell may have tripped on raised grates for water run-off while walking along the pier while he was looking at his phone.

Garda Valerie Farrell said the raised grates had since been removed from the pier. The phone was never recovered.

Ingress portals

Poolbeg lighthouse had previously been designated as a portal by Ingress players.

Many portals are historic sites or landmark buildings and players must be within a radius of 20ft of a portal to carry out any activity associated with it in the game.

The inquest heard the water tower on the M50 had previously been a portal but was removed because access was deemed too dangerous.

The court heard Mr Maxwell sustained a skull fracture in the fall from the pier and the cause of death was drowning.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned a verdict of death by misadventure because the portal itself had “inherent risk factors”.

“The pier is open at both sides, the surface was uneven, it was night time, there are no lights, it was in the course of this game Ingress,” the coroner said.

GPS-based game

Ingress is a GPS-based mobile phone video game which involves players travelling to real-life physical locations known as “portals”.

As players approach portals, they can “hack” them for equipment, capture or reinforce them for their team, liberate them from an opposing team, and link them together to form “mind control fields”. These successes earn points for a team.

The number of people playing it throughout the world is estimated at more than 7 million.