A YOUNG couple drowned after they were swept into the sea by a freak wave while fishing off rocks in West Cork and the young man’s father perished trying to save them, an inquest has heard.
During the inquest, coroner Frank O’Connell described the tragedy as ‘deeply upsetting’ and ‘devastating’ for the families involved.
Barry Davis Ryan (20), his girlfriend Niamh O’Connor (20), his father, Barry Ryan (51) and his sister, Charlotte (13) were all fishing on rocks near Baltimore when tragedy struck on June 30th 2015.
This week at an inquest into their deaths held at Clonakilty courthouse, Gda Martin Ashe told how all four were fishing on rocks on the eastern side of Beacon Point near Baltimore when the wave struck.
‘A large wave came in and swept two of them from the rocks – Barry Davis Ryan and Niamh O’Connor. Barry Ryan then dived in to try and assist,’ he said. Garda Ashe told how the fourth member of the group, Charlotte Davis Ryan, then raced back up to Beacon Point and flagged down some tourists who made a 999 call and raised the alarm.
Baltimore RNLI responded and the lifeboat Alan Massey was quickly on the scene and recovered Mr Ryan Snr and Ms O’Connor. However, attempts to resuscitate them were unsuccessful and both Mr Ryan Snr and Ms O’Connor were pronounced dead by a local GP at Baltimore pier later that evening.
Sgt Tony McCarthy told the inquest how a major search operation was mounted over the following days for Barry Davis Ryan who remained missing. It was hampered by stormy weather as well as sea fog which reduced visibility and made searching difficult.
However, Mr Davis Ryan’s body was recovered by a team of divers on July 10th, near where he had disappeared, and his remains were also brought ashore at Baltimore Harbour where he was pronounced dead by a local GP.
Assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest that Mr Ryan Snr died from acute cardio-respiratory failure due to drowning while both Mr Davis Ryan and Ms O’Connor also died from acute cardio-respiratory failure due to drowning.
However, Dr Bolster said that in addition to drowning, a significant factor in causing the deaths of both young people was traumatic brain injury with subarachnoid haemorrhage also playing a part.
Coroner Frank O’Connell said that he now had enough evidence to register all three deaths and would do so, so the families could obtain death certificates. He adjourned the inquest until February 16th of next year, when the remainder of the evidence will be heard. Mr O’Connell extended his sympathies to the family of both Ms O’Connor and the Davis Ryan family on their loss following such a freakish accident while out fishing on a lovely summer’s evening.
‘I would like to extend my condolences to Mr and Mrs O’Connor – that such an unlucky thing as a freak wave should wreak such havoc on your lovely daughter is deeply upsetting. My deepest sympathies to you. This has been devastating, too, for the Ryan family at all levels – the loss of two generations and the consequences of that, I am sure, will be felt for a very long time.’
Insp Gerry Lacey also extended his sympathies on behalf of An Garda Siochana.
Mr Ryan and Mr Davis Ryan who lived in Baltimore, were the son and grandson of Penny’s founder, businessman Arthur Ryan. Ms O’Connor, from Glanmire, was the grandniece of former Cork GAA stars, Bertie Og and Tadgh Murphy.
It was announced this week that Charlotte Davis Ryan is to receive a West Cork Garda Award for her courage during the searches.