Limerick bridge tragedy survivor ‘lucky to be alive’

Two men died in incident while repairing bridge over River Shannon

The scene at Thomond Bridge in Limerick on Saturday evening as the cage structure was lifted out of the water. Photograph: Liam Burke/Press 22

The scene at Thomond Bridge in Limerick on Saturday evening as the cage structure was lifted out of the water. Photograph: Liam Burke/Press 22

 

The sole survivor of an incident in which two men died while working on the Thomond bridge in Limerick two weeks ago has said he is lucky to be alive.

Paul Murphy (36) from Askeaton in Co Limerick , said that he was delighted to be able to take his son Jack to school last week and is now looking forward to the birth of his next child in November.

“For me it’s a good news story but there’s two families out there ripped to bits,” Mr Murphy told the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio.

Ms Murphy, who cannot swim, said he had been feeling nervous about the work which involved him and his two colleagues TJ O’Herlihy (36) and Bryan Whelan (29) being suspended in a cage over the side of the bridge over the River Shannon.

“A lot of media have been saying I had a premonition which I didn’t, I had my own little thought in my head. It was just a thought if I go into the water I have to get out. I knew I had my life jacket on me so I had confidence in the life jacket so I knew I just had to get my harness off before I went into the water,” he said.

The men were carrying out the work on the bridge when the cable attached to the crane that was suspending the cage over the side of the bridge gave way and plunged into the water.

“Next minute, all I heard was a bang. Once I heard the bang I knew exactly what happened, the rope broke.

“ I said to myself, you’re going into the water, so I took a deep breath, as we hit the water my life jacket inflated.

“I took a second breath of air but all I got was water into the mouth. I said, there’s only one chance to get out of this I need to get my harness off,” he said.

Mr Murphy removed his harness off and floated down the river. He was pulled from the water by Marine Search and Rescue .

Asked if was in a position to help his colleagues Mr Murphy said: “It was like a scene in a Hollywood movie, it was clear, then murky and then black. That’s all I can remember... I couldn’t see anyone.”

Mr Murphy said he had worked with Mr Whelan for over four years but had only met Mr O’Herlihy that morning.

He said he hopes to return to work shortly and feels fine after the ordeal. He said he has promised his wife that if he needs counselling in the future, he will avail of it.