AN elderly West Cork farmer died from serious head injuries when a rope snapped and he fell over 40 feet from a cliff top while trying to rescue a calf with his neighbours near his home, an inquest heard this week.
Anthony O’Sullivan (82) from Gortahig, Allihies, Beara, suffered a fractured skull resulting in traumatic brain injury and other injuries when he fell from the cliffs at lands he was renting at Reentrisk, Allihies on October 7th, 2017.
The inquest heard how a number of people, including Monica van Elferen and her husband, Christiaan Muijzert, Derek Lowes and Luke Lewis, had gone to assist Mr O’Sullivan after he contacted them to say that a calf had fallen from the cliffs on to the beach below.
Mr Muijzert told how, when he arrived at the scene, his wife was on the beach, along with Mr O’Sullivan and Mr Lowes, and they were trying to get the calf back on his feet with the use of some straps but it wasn’t working, so they had to abandoned plans to try and walk the calf off the beach.
They decided to try and hoist the calf up the cliff face using some straps and a rope, which they attached to Mr Lowes’ tractor on the cliff top and they decided to run the rope through a small iron gate which they brought to the cliff top to prevent the rope cutting into the rocks at the cliff edge.
Mr Muijzert explained that they tried to hoist the calf up using this method at least three times, but the first time the animal got snagged on some barbed wire and they had to lower the animal back down, while the second time they were not able to hoist the animal over the cliff overhang.
They decided to move the whole operation along the cliff to a point where there was less of an overhang to clear, but again they were having difficulty getting the animal back on to the cliff top and had to lower it back down, he said.
Ms Van Elferen, who was on the cliff top giving directions, told how Mr O’Sullivan was holding the gate which was anchored to the ground with ropes and a metal spike driven into the ground, when the knot which tied the straps to the hauling rope met some resistance on the gate and snapped.
Mr Muijzert, who was on the beach, told the inquest: ‘The rope snapped and the animal immediately fell on to the rocks below and Anthony, while trying to regain his balance, toppled over the edge and he fell head first on to the rocks below.’
The inquest heard how Mr O’Sullivan survived the fall and was breathing but unconscious so the group gave him CPR while waiting for the emergency services to arrive and personnel from the Irish Coast Guard continued to give him CPR before he was pronounced dead at the scene by a local GP.
Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster, said that Mr O’Sullivan suffered a fracture to the skull as well as lacerations to his lungs and kidneys and a fractured hip in the fall, and he died as a result of traumatic brain injury associated with polytrauma injuries due to a fall from a height.
Coroner for West Cork, Mr Frank O’Connell, returned a verdict of accidental death and extended his sympathies to Mr O’Sullivan’s widow, Eileen, on her loss while he also extended his sympathies to Mr O’Sullivan’s friends and neighbours who had witnessed ‘such a horrible tragedy.’