Parents ‘devastated’ after brothers drown in diving accident

The brothers from Laois were experienced divers and trying a new piece of equipment

Post mortems are being carried out on the bodies of two brothers who drowned in a diving accident at University Hospital Limerick before their remains will be handed over to their family for burial. Photograph: Press 22

Post mortems are being carried out on the bodies of two brothers who drowned in a diving accident at University Hospital Limerick before their remains will be handed over to their family for burial. Photograph: Press 22

 

Tributes were paid to Laois brothers Fergus and Philip Brophy, who drowned in a diving incident at a quarry, in Co Tipperary, on Sunday.

Fr Tom Dooley, parish priest, Portarlington, where the siblings grew up, said the community was in shock as locals tried to come to terms with the double drowning at Portroe Quarry.

Fergus, (43), married to Michelle in Ballybrittas, and his younger brother Philip, (34), who lived at the family home in Lough, Portarlington, had set off for Portroe early on Sunday morning to try out a new piece of diving equipment at the quarry, Fr Dooley explained.

It is understood the two men travelled to Portroe Dive Centre, which is located at the quarry, to try out a new underwater scooter, however both drowned after one tried to help the other after they got into difficulty in the 40m deep water.

The siblings were frequent visitors to Portroe Quarry where divers from all over the country and beyond come to train and hone their diving skills, as well as explore a number of sunken wrecks.

A major emergency operation swung into play at the quarry on Sunday afternoon involving search and rescue groups, Killaloe Coast Guard, gardaí, and paramedics. Efforts by rescue personnel to revive the brothers were unsuccessful and their bodies were transferred to University Hospital Limerick for post mortems.

“They left yesterday morning at 8.30am, one would have picked up the other. They were experienced divers, it was their big passion,” Fr Dooley explained.

They had engaged in “deep sea diving” in destinations across the world, he added.

“I know the family well, they’re from Lough, Portarlington. Fergus is married to Michelle and they live in Ballybrittas in a new housing estate, and Philip lived with his parents Seamus and Dinah in Lough.” The two men are also survived by two brothers and a sister.

“They were grand, ordinary fellas . . . they would have been experienced divers, and they dived around the world in different places,” said Fr Dooley.

He accompanied gardaí on the journey to the men’s parents home, to deliver the heartbreaking news.

“They’re devastated, unbelievable . . . they don’t really know what happened. I suppose they are waiting on the gardaí. I know they had some sort of new machine that they were testing. One got into difficulty and the other tried to save them and both of them (died). People know them very well. They’re of a farming background for generations and generations.”

Gardaí are treating the double drowning as a tragic accident. A spokesman for the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) said it was “looking into the circumstances” of the tragedy, but added that it had not launched an investigation as of yet.

Post mortems were being carried out on the bodies at University Hospital Limerick before their remains were to be handed over to their family for burial.

Portroe Dive Centre had opened last weekend after a four-month lockdown due to Covid-19 guidelines around social distancing.

A contact spokesperson for Portroe Dive Centre could not be reached for comment.

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