Freak wave swept couple into sea at Baltimore, inquest hears

Father of man died trying to rescue pair after incident while fishing on rocks in west Cork

An inquest has heard how a couple was swept into the sea by a freak wave while fishing off rocks in west Cork and the young man's father died when trying to save them.

Barry Davis Ryan (20), his girlfriend Niamh O'Connor (20), his father, Barry Ryan (51) and his sister, Charlotte (13) were on rocks near Baltimore when the wave struck on June 30th 2015.

Today an inquest into their deaths was held at Clonakilty Courthouse. Garda Martin Ashe told how all four were fishing on the eastern side of Beacon Point near Baltimore when the wave struck.

“Unfortunately a large wave came in a swept two of them from the rocks – Barry Davis Ryan and Niamh O’Connor. Barry Ryan then dived in to try and assist.


Garda Ashe told how the fourth member of the group, Charlotte Davis Ryan then raced back up to Beacon Point and flagged down some tourists who made a 999 call and raised the alarm.

Baltimore RNLI Lifeboat the Alan Massey was quickly on the scene and recovered Mr Ryan Snr and Ms O'Connor and the crew performed CPR as they brought them back to Baltimore Harbour.

However attempts to resuscitate both casualties provided unsuccessful and both Mr Ryan Snr and Ms O’Connor were both pronounced dead by a local GP at Baltimore Harbour later that evening.

Sgt Tony McCarthy told how a major search operation was mounted for Barry Davis Ryan but it was hampered by stormy weather over several days.

However Mr Davis Ryan’s body was recovered by divers some ten days later on July 10th near where he had disappeared and his remains were brought ashore at Baltimore Harbour.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster carried out post-mortems on all three deceased at Cork University Hospital and she outlined her findings to Coroner for West Cork, Frank O'Connell.

Mr Ryan Snr died from acute cardio-respiratory failure due to drowning while both Mr Davis Ryan and Ms O’Connor also died from acute cardio-respiratory failure due to drowning.

However Dr Bolster said that in addition to a drowning, a significant factor in causing the deaths of both young people was traumatic brain injury with subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Coroner, Mr O’Connell said that he now had enough evidence to register all three deaths and he adjourned the inquest until February 16th 2016 when the remainder of the evidence will be heard.

Mr O’Connell extended his sympathies to the families.

“I would like to extend my condolences to Mr and Mrs O’Connor — that such an unlucky thing as a freak wave should wreak such havoc on your lovely daughter- my deepest sympathies to you.

“This has been devastating too for the Ryan family at all levels – the loss of two generations and the consequences of that , I am sure, will be felt for a very long time – my deepest sympathies to you.”

Mr Ryan and Mr Davis Ryan were the son and grandson of Penney’s founder, businessman Arthur Ryan while Ms O’Connor was the grandniece of former Cork GAA stars, Bertie Og and Tadgh Murphy.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times