Political scientist Prof Brigid Laffan has spoken of the “unimaginable” trauma visited on her family when her husband died while swimming in south Dublin earlier this year.
Prof Laffan, a well-known commentator on European affairs, said she watched as her husband, businessman Michael Laffan, got into trouble while swimming at Seapoint, near Dun Laoghaire Harbour on January 5th.
Recalling how she felt something was wrong, she said her husband and another swimmer had gone a little further out than others, when she saw his head lift suddenly out of the water. Mr Laffan looked toward the spot where she and their son Diarmuid were standing on a walkway, before turning to swim towards the shore.
She immediately called out to his fellow swimmers that “Michael is in trouble” while a nearby man, who happened to be a trained lifeguard, kicked off his shoes and went to assist.
Prof Laffan said there were also two doctors and a nurse nearby and Diarmuid also rushed immediately to his father’s aid. However, despite the rapid response, which included CPR, Mr Laffan did not recover and was taken by ambulance to St Vincent’s Hospital where he was declared dead.
While post mortem results are yet to be made available, Ms Laffan said her husband did not drown, but died from some form of “catastrophic heart episode”.
She said it was some comfort that he “wasn’t on his own. His son carried him out”.
“If he could have been saved he would have been,” she told the Brendan O’Connor show on RTÉ Radio One.
She said she and her husband had been planning for their retirement and were looking forward to their remaining years together.
“It is a real trauma to see someone die before your eyes,” she added.
Mr Laffan was a well-known businessman remembered for his involvement in cooker and stove manufacturer Waterford Stanley, which he and a colleague took over in a management buyout in 2000.
Prof Laffan, a former professor of politics at UCD, is now emeritus professor at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute, in Florence, Italy.