Two men drowned off Inishbofin

 

TWO SEPARATE inquiries are being conducted into the deaths of two Mayo men off Inishbofin island, Co Galway, early yesterday morning.

Former GAA All-Star footballer Ger Feeney and businessman and pilot Donal McEllin, who were both from Castlebar, Co Mayo, are believed to have drowned after both got into difficulties in the water near Inishbofin harbour.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) and gardaí in Clifden, Co Galway, are investigating the circumstances, but initial inquiries suggest that the incident occurred when the men were returning to their motor cruiser, which was anchored off the island.

The alert was raised when the body of one of the men was washed ashore. The RNLI Clifden lifeboat was tasked and discovered the body of the second man underneath a rigid inflatable boat (Rib), which both had been using to return to the 41ft motor cruiser Quo Vadis.

The two had left Rosmoney pier early on Saturday for Inishbofin, which both have visited for a number of years. They spent a number of hours ashore on Saturday night, and were reported to be wearing lifejackets when they left early yesterday to return to the motor cruiser.

It is understood that the Rib was tied to the cruiser – indicating that both men had returned to the motor cruiser before falling or being thrown into the water. One of the men’s bodies was discovered by a local fisherman in the inner harbour around 11am yesterday.

Malin Head Coast Guard tasked both Clifden lifeboat and the Sligo-based Irish Coast Guard Sikorsky helicopter. The helicopter flew both bodies to Galway University Hospital for identification and postmortem yesterday afternoon.

Mr McEllin (64), a single man and owner of the motor cruiser, was influential in developing Castlebar airport. He bought the boat some years ago after selling The Airport Bar and adjacent runway to a property developer for a major retail business development.

His friend Ger Feeney (55), a former GAA All-Star footballer for Mayo, was married with four grown-up children, and worked for the ESB.

He won a minor All-Ireland in 1971 and an under-21 winner’s medal in 1974.

He played for over a decade with the Mayo senior team, and his brother Seán has been Mayo GAA secretary.

One of his sons, Alan, was in New York yesterday with the Mayo team for the FBD league final against New York when he learned the news.

Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony, a former teammate of Ger Feeney’s on Mayo sides of the 1970s and 1980s, described him last night as “a tenacious and talented” wing back, and an inspirational figure in all the teams he played in.

Mayor of Castlebar Cllr Ger Deere yesterday described the two men as “stalwarts of the local community”.

“Donal came from a very well-known and respected old Castlebar business family. Ger made a name for himself as a footballer and was very proud of the fact that two of his sons, Alan and Richie, currently play with the Castlebar Mitchels senior team,” the mayor said.

Publican Mick Byrne predicted yesterday it would take a long time for the town to come to terms with the loss of the two highly popular local personalities.

“Ger gave of his time freely to the local GAA,” Mr Byrne said. “He was a tireless worker behind the scenes.”

Mr McEllin, whose was fondly known as “Skinty”, was of “auld stock” in Castlebar, Mr Byrne said. “He was great fun, legendary for his exploits as a pilot and in the FCA back in the 1960s. Both will be grievously missed,” Mr Byrne added.