Limerick drownings: Funeral told of victim’s ‘heart of gold’

Bryan Whelan (29) trapped in river when cage platform collapsed after cable snapped

The funeral Mass of one of the men who died while trapped in a cage in the River Shannon last Saturday has heard he died while trying to keep others safe.

Family members, friends and work colleagues, said goodbye to the "gentleman" bricklayer Bryan Whelan, who was said to have a "heart of gold".

Mr Whelan (29), from Bridgetown, Co Clare, became trapped in the river after a cage platform he was working on while repairing Thomond Bridge, Limerick city, collapsed after a cable being held by a crane snapped.

TJ O’Herlihy (36), a stonemason from Castleisland, who was working alongside Mr Whelan on his first day in the job, also died in the tragic incident.


Escaped uninjured

Paul Murphy (36), from Askeaton, Co Limerick, who was also working on the platform, escaped without injury.

Mr Murphy and hundreds more attended Mr Whelan’s funeral Mass on Tuesday in Kilbane, southeast Clare.

"While Bryan's death is indeed an immeasurable loss to his parents and siblings and the local community...he tragically lost his life last Saturday afternoon whilst making Thomond Bridge in Limerick city safe for other people to use," Fr John Bane, PP, Broadford, told mourners.

“So there is that consolation, that he was still doing something worthwhile, even when he was taken in death,” Fr Bane said.

John Paul Whelan, the eldest of the three Whelan brothers, addressing his younger sibling Robert, said sorrowfully, "The three amigos are now two."

In an emotional eulogy, Mr Whelan, whose brother Bryan had been his best man at his wedding, and godfather to his son Jack, added: “To say our family is heartbroken is an understatement.”

“Our world, as we know it, was turned upside down.”

‘Charming charismatic’

Mr Whelan said his brother was “charming, charismatic, and hard-working”, a man who “excelled” in his job as a bricklayer and bridge repairer, which mourners were told was a specialised skill.

“Bryan’s workmanship surrounds us in our it a wall, stonework, a pier, a fireplace,” Mr Whelan said.

“Bryan was a person you could count on, a real gentleman.”

“He had a heart of solid gold.”

“He loved his family...loved hurling, cars, and music, and animals - another testament to his ‘kid’ nature,” his sibling added.

Mr Whelan paid special tribute to the "professionalism and support" of the emergency services who responded to the scene at Thomond Bridge last weekend, including, "Limerick Marine Search and Rescue Service, Limerick City Fire Service, the Irish Coast Guard, Limerick Regional Hospital, the gardaí at Mayorstone Garda station, and especially Garda Dave Nolan".

Loud applause

Mourners loudly applauded as John Paul Whelan, who broke down in tears, said finally to his brother, who is also survived by parents John and Margaret and sisters Veronica and Maria: “I love you, we love you. Farewell for now, until we see you again.”

Bryan Whelan was laid to rest in Kilbane Cemetery in a solid oak coffin draped in a jersey of Broadford GAA club, with whom he had played hurling.

The removal of TJ O’Herlihy’s body will take place from 5pm-7pm, Thursday, at Tangney’s Funeral Home, Castleisland, followed by Requiem Mass in Castleisland Parish Church on Friday at 11am, with burial afterwards in Kilbanivane Cemetery, Castleisland.