Bolger brothers inquest recommends state implement regular system testing
The jury in the inquest into the deaths of three Co Waterford brothers who drowned while out fishing in June of 2013 have recommended that the State put in place a system to regularly test safety signalling devices.
Verdicts of death by drowning were returned at the Coroner’s court in Tramore on last Thursday in relation to brothers Paul, Kenny and Shane Bolger from Passage East who died on June 12 of 2013 after the signalling device which should have sent a beacon to the emergency services when their vessel ran into trouble failed to go off.
They left Dunmore East at 7am that morning and the alarm was raised after 5pm when it was realised they hadn’t returned to the harbour. The three bodies were found and recovered by the Coast Guard’s rescue helicopter and the Dunmore East lifeboat after 6pm.
The jury recommended, following a request from the extended Bolger family, that EPIRB signalling devices which must be carried on all fishing vessels be periodically tested by the State. They also recommended that State funding be provided for the supply of personal alarm devices to all people who go out in fishing vessels, which would set off a signal if coming into contact with water, and that these also be tested on a regular basis.
The inquest in Tramore heard that a fourth brother Anthony Bolger, who co-owned the boat with Paul, Kenny and Shane, didn’t go fishing with them that day as he had undergone heart surgery the previous April. His evidence was that the EPIRB device carried by the boat was tested earlier in the year and found to be okay.The EPIRB washed up on Tramore beach and was found three days after the tragedy by a member of the public.
Testing found it to be a dud, which didn’t do its job, Anthony Bolger said. That model of EPIRB was later recalled by its Australian manufacturers, Standard Communications PTY Ltd, after a safety alert.
A statement was read out from Peter Curran, station mechanic with the Dunmore East lifeboat who couldn’t be present, who said he got the call from Joe Whitty at 5.17pm and contacted the central authority in Dublin at 5.25pm. The lifeboat was launched at 5.38pm and they saw the rescue helicopter in the air shortly afterwards.The helicopter brought the first casualty on board, which was Paul Bolger, and the lifeboat took the second and third casualties, Shane and Kenny Bolger, with no sign of life evident in any of them. CPR was administered on board but rigor mortis was already evident.
Medical evidence was given by pathologist Dr Fergus McSweeney who found no external sign of any trauma that would have caused the deaths. His opinion was that death was caused by drowning, with hypothermia a contributory factor in each case.
The jury returned a verdict of death by drowning in each case, and agreed with the coroner to return a verdict of misadventure. The coroner explained that misadventure was the unintended outcome to an intended action