Two boys drowned despite ‘valiant’ efforts by friends, inquest hears

Group of five 15-year-olds had gone swimming in a Co Clare quarry

Jack Kenneally and Shay Moloney, both 15, drowned while swimming in a disused quarry last summer. Photograph: Ennis Rugby Club/Twitter

Jack Kenneally and Shay Moloney, both 15, drowned while swimming in a disused quarry last summer. Photograph: Ennis Rugby Club/Twitter

 

Friends of two 15-year-old promising rugby players who drowned while swimming in a disused quarry in Co Clare last summer told gardaí they desperately tried to save the pair, but failed after tiredness overcame them.

Details of the tragedy were heard at the victims’ inquest on Wednesday at Limerick Coroner’s Court.

There were emotional scenes at the hearing as friends and family of victims Jack Kenneally and Shay Moloney listened to harrowing evidence of the teenagers’ final moments.

The inquest also heard how paramedics were sent to three different quarry locations in the Ennis area before eventually arriving at the correct quarry, half an hour after receiving the initial 999 call.

An internal investigation carried out by the National Ambulance Service found no fault with procedures during the ambulance emergency response.

The depositions of three friends of the victims were read into the record by Garda Inspector Dermot O’Connor of Henry Street Garda station, Limerick.

The group of five, all aged 15, had gone swimming to an island in the middle of the quarry when Jack Kenneally and Shay Moloney got into difficulty.

The inquest heard there were warning signs erected at the disused quarry, which is owned by Clare County Council.

One of the boys in the group described how the victims started to “panic” after getting into difficulty in the water.

Another boy described being pulled under the water by one of the victims as they tried to help save them.

“I was trying to keep Shay up, keep him calm for two minutes. My arms got too tired and I couldn’t hold him anymore,” one of the boys told gardaí.

Dean Coughlan (19) from Station Road, Ennis, who was passing at the time, and heard the boys “screaming”, jumped into the water to try to help but could not reach them.

He told gardaí that, as he made his way to the water’s edge, he could see one of the boys “trying to keep Shay up”.

“I was close when I saw them go down...only [one] came back up...he was distraught,” Mr Coughlan added.

Ennis firefighters arrived at the scene nine minutes after receiving the alert.

The inquest heard that, despite being able to see the victims beneath the surface, they could not reach them as the boys were too deep in the water.

The inquest heard how firefighters trained in water rescues wear special flotation suits which, for their own safety, position the firefighters on the surface of the water, thus preventing them from diving.

Michael O’Rourke, a diver attached to Ennis Sub Aqua Club, came on the scene and retrieved the bodies of the two young victims.

Coroner Dr John McNamara said despite “valiant” efforts by their friends, paramedics, and firefighters, the boys were later pronounced dead at University Hospital Limerick.

Dr McNamara returned a verdict of accidental death due to asphyxiation secondary to drowning for each boy.

On foot of a suggestion from Sean Kenneally, father of Jack, Dr McNamara said he would make a recommendation that the owners of the quarry erect life buoys at the site.