THE family of a Cork student who drowned at Owenahincha beach 10 years ago this September have donated a rib (rigid inflatable boat) to the beach to help raise awareness of water safety in the area.
In a poignant tribute to their son’s death, Liam and Eileen Herlihy from Glanmire wanted to give something back to the area where their song tragically lost his life while trying to save the lives of two others.
Their UCC student son, Jonathan Herlihy, 22, drowned along with businessman Peter O’Keeffe, 36, from Model Farm Road in September 2006, when they went to the rescue of a couple – Lee Cooley and Cliona Murphy – who got into difficulty while swimming off Owenahincha. While the couple were rescued and reached safety, the two brave men got caught in undercurrents and both tragically drowned.
Following the donation of the rib boat, locals and friends of the Herlihys who holiday in Owenahincha have now set up the Owenahincha Bay Water Safety Association (OBWSA).
‘What we are hoping to do with the setting-up of the association is to teach people how to swim in the sea and to educate people about water safety and the use of the beach in Owenahincha,’ said Noel O’Regan, PRO with OBWSA.
‘I holiday down here and over the years I have got to know the Herlihys there. They bought a second hand rib which they hope can be used in the event of an emergency on the beach.’
So far, three people have been trained in the use of the rib and the group are hoping to train three more people so they will have a team of six who can competently operate the boat.
The idea was first mooted last year among a number of both locals and those that holiday in the West Cork location.
‘What we don’t want people to think is that we will be out there saving people, but we just want to be able to help in the event of an emergency. The rib is a limited boat, so major rescues wouldn’t be within its remit. It’s really about promoting water safety and we will have trained people to give advice to beach users,’ added Noel.
The group is hoping to launch the boat this summer and to get more local people on board for various events to promote water safety. They also hope to fundraise in the future and have complied with the Charities Act.
‘We are training people and we’re keeping it small as we don’t want us to be the problem in the sea,’ said Noel.
The OBWSA’s mission statement is to ‘relieve suffering and distress amongst persons endangered by accidents or natural hazards, by the provision and maintenance of a trained rescue association to operate throughout the greater Owenahincha Bay area, or any other place if requested.’
They also will seek to educate all potential users of the beaches of the greater Owenahincha Bay area and countryside, advising of possible dangers in the area and aiming to prevent tragedies or mishaps by giving talks and demonstrations to interested organisations. ‘If we could help one person then our job is done,’ said Noel.
The OBWSA has set up a bank account with AIB Bank in Clonakilty if people want to donate money.
The account no is 12848039, sort code 93 60 57.
For more information on OBWSA you can contact them at (023) 8848395 or by emailing [email protected] or visit their Facebook page- www.facebook.com/Owenahincha.BayWaterSafetyAssociation2016.