Father, son and son’s girlfriend drowned off Cork, inquest hears

Barry Ryan (51), Barry Davis Ryan (20) and Niamh O’Connor (20) died in 2015 incident

Barry Davis Ryan (20) drowned off the Cork coast in 2015.

Barry Davis Ryan (20) drowned off the Cork coast in 2015.


People who fish in the sea should wear buoyancy aids as it will increase their chances of being rescued, an inquest into the deaths of two men and a woman in West Cork has heard.

Baltimore RNLI’s Kieran Cotter told the inquest into the deaths of Barry Ryan Snr (51), Barry Davis Ryan (20) and his girlfriend Niamh O’Connor (20) that a buoyancy aid can be the difference between being rescued and perishing at sea.

“A buoyancy aid may not bring you back ashore if you are swept off the rocks by a big sea, but it will keep you on the surface and give you a reasonable chance of being picked up by the rescue services,” Mr Cotter said.

Earlier the inquest heard a statement from Mr Ryan’s young daughter, Charlotte Ryan Davis (13), in which she described how she had gone down with the victims to the rocks near the Beacon in Baltimore at about 6.15pm on June 30th, 2015, to go fishing.

She said she was sitting down on rocks with her father and Ms O’Connor while her brother had gone out on the furthest rock to go fishing .

She said that when he asked if anyone else wanted a go, Ms O’Connor joined him, only for them all to be hit by a couple of waves.

“Then a big wave came in and hit us. Me and Dad got soaked and it pushed us up against the rock. Barry and Niamh were pushed out to sea by the pressure of the wave – Barry was further out than Niamh, there was a bit of distance between them,” said Charlotte.

“Niamh was screaming so Dad took off his coat and he told me to go up the rocks so I saw him swim out to Niamh . . . I stopped to look again, I couldn’t see Barry - Niamh and Dad were close by the rocks and then I saw their heads go under and I started to panic,” she said.

The inquest heard how Charlotte spotted Welsh tourists Christine Bird-Jones, Maggie McTurk and Carys Mol near the Beacon and they raised the alarm, dialling 911 before returning with Charlotte down to the rocks to see if they could help.

The inquest also heard how a witness, Sinead O’Sullivan, told gardaí she was on the cliff when she saw a man in the sea who appeared to be treading water, while she also saw a woman in the water who seemed to be shouting, but she put that down to the fact there was a seal near her.

“At this stage I saw another man enter the water, he was topless and wearing boxer shorts and when he swam over to the girl, he calmed her down and everything seemed to be okay,” said Ms O’Sullivan, who discovered later that a tragedy had unfolded.

Emergency response

Mr Cotter told the inquest how Baltimore RNLI responded to an alert at 6.36pm from the Irish Coast Guard, reaching the area by 6.46pm, where they spotted both a man and a woman in the sea.

One lifeboat recovered Barry Ryan Snr and a second lifeboat recovered Niamg O’Connor.

Neither were responsive. The RNLI crew performed CPR on them as they brought them back to Baltimore, where doctors worked on them for an hour on the pier, the inquest heard.

Both Barry Ryan Snr and Ms O’Connor were pronounced dead on the pier as the lifeboats returned to the scene to search for Mr Davis Ryan Jnr, but they could find no trace of him.

A major search operation for Barry Ryan Snr was conducted over the following 10 days.

Diver Eric Hennessy told the inquest how he found Mr Davis Ryan Jnr’s body on July 10th near the rocks.

His body was wedged in an L-shaped rock and surrounded by kelp.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest that Mr Ryan Snr died from acute cardio-respiratory failure due to drowning, while both Davis Ryan Jnr and Ms O’Connor died from acute cardio-respiratory failure due to drowning after suffering severe head and brain injuries.

She said it appeared that both Davis Ryan Jnr and Ms O’Connor had been buffeted against the rock after being swept into the sea.

Coroner for West Cork, Frank O’Connell, returned verdicts of accidental death in respect of all three deaths.