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Closure for family whose son missing for 24 years

February 23rd, 2019 10:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

Frances Minihane, mother of Daniel John Minihane, who went missing in 1995, at the Coroner's Court in Bandon on Tuesday. (Photo: Denis Boyle)

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AFTER a 24-year wait, a Skibbereen family finally got closure at an inquest this week, which heard how their son went missing while fishing in Baltimore in 1995.

In Bandon this week, coroner Frank O’Connell told the family of Daniel John Minihane (20) of Glencurragh, Skibbereen, that even though Denis drowned 24 years ago, a verdict of drowning could now be recorded, and a death certificate issued, despite the fact that no body was actually recovered.

Mr O’Connell said he was approached in 2015 about opening an inquest into Mr Minihane’s death, after the fisherman was last seen fishing on his boat in Baltimore Bay on January 26th 1995.

‘I opened it last July and Daniel John’s mother, Frances, told me that he had gone off fishing on his own that morning and was seen by two fishermen – Anthony O’Dwyer and Denis Cronin – at the time,’ said Mr O’Connell.

‘Gardaí then gave evidence of searches and then it emerged that there were too possible eye witnesses to seeing the boat submerged, and they raised the alarm.’

On foot of this information, Mr O’Connell wrote to the Minister for Justice about this information, and he ordered him to hold a full inquest.

At the inquest this week, Anthony O’Dwyer from Church Cross said he remembered the date that Daniel John went missing. He said he was heading out fishing with Denis Cronin that same morning.

‘We went out at 9am and Daniel John was going out the same time too. It was a fresh enough day and we stopped at one point and he kept going out further,’ said Mr Cronin.

‘Later on we saw something sticking out of the water and as we got closer, we saw that it was his boat, the bow was up and the rest of her was submerged. He had shrimp pots and they were hanging off the bottom of it.

He said they went right up close to the boat and then alerted the Valentia Coast Guard. 

They stayed with the boat for a while and when another boat came along, they gave them ropes to raise the boat but there was too much weight and the boat sank.

‘She went under the water and we looked to see if he was around. We don’t know how long Daniel John was in the water.’

Mr Cronin said that day they stayed out all day looking for Mr Minihane, and other local boats came out also to search for him, and that a big search was carried over the next few weeks.

‘It was definitely his boat, Moonshiner – we recognised it earlier that morning. He was hauling shrimp pots and maybe there was too much weight on the boat for the conditions on the day.’

Mr O’Connell said that it would be a fair guess that while he was hauling, the boat went down and it was consistent with weights pulling the boat down.

In conclusion, Mr O’Connell said the verdict is that Daniel John Minihane died in the sea off Baltimore Bay as a result of drowning when his fishing boat became swamped by waves. 

He offered his deepest sympathies to the Minihanes and said he hopes that this gives them a bit of closure after a 24-year wait.

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