Coroner calls for lifejackets to be worn


A CORONER has pleaded with all boat-users to wear lifejackets after hearing how a sailor died when his traditional Galway hooker was hit by a gust of wind and he was thrown into the water.

Galway West coroner Dr Ciarán McLaughlin issued the appeal at the inquest yesterday into the death of an experienced Connemara sailor.

On September 5th, 2009, on Galway Bay, a gust of wind knocked over the gleoiteog McHughwhich was en route from Kinvara in south Co Galway across the bay to Rossaveal in Connemara for a regatta.

Brothers Johnny Sheáin Jeaic Mac Donncha (67) and Josie Sheáin Jeaic Mac Donncha (66) were thrown into the water. Josie was wearing a lifejacket and survived, but Johnny was not.

The inquest heard that the crew of an accompanying boat Blath na hÓigecame to their assistance. Despite the efforts though of neighbour Gerry Folan, who jumped into the sea to rescue Johnny Mac Donncha, he could not be saved.

A Marine Casualty Investigation Board found that the alarm was raised by mobile phone and a rescue helicopter and the Galway inshore lifeboat attended the scene. They were unable to make direct contact with the Bláth na hÓige, as there was no VHF on board.

The investigation found that if Johnny Mac Donncha had been wearing the lifejacket that was on board for him, it would have increased his chances of survival.

The report also found that had a VHF radio been on board, the helicopter would have found the casualty “faster and with greater ease”.

Coroner Dr McLaughlin recommended that sufficient pyrotechnic flares should be sourced before a voyage is undertaken and that similar vessels should carry approved VHF radio devices. He appealed to all people using boats to wear lifejackets at all times.