A coroner recommended that safety requirements and regulations for recreational boaters in Ireland be reviewed.
Dr Denis McCauley spoke after a two-day inquiry into the deaths of a nephew and uncle who drowned off Donegal’s coast.
Thomas Weir (16), and Gerry Doherty (63) both died after their 19ft boats capsized at Malin Head in July 17th. 2018.
Dessie Keenan (45),, the only survivor of the party’s members, cried as he testified at Letterkenny Courthouse about the last moments of the tragedy.
The coroner made the recommendations after hearing there were almost no safety requirements, training or licences needed for an estimated 60,000 recreational boat owners around the State at present.
Among these recommendations is to request the Minister of Transport to enforce previous recommendations regarding mandatory training for all vessels taking to the ocean; to teach seafarers how a phone can be used for communication; to encourage the use of life jackets and make the code for recreational craft easier to understand.
The late Mr Doherty’s barrister, Peter Nolan said that the current situation was similar to cars without an NCT and suggested people can go to sea with all kinds of “bangers” at the moment. Coroner Dr McCauley said on sunny days we now had potentially 60,000 vessels around Ireland with two or three people on board with no requirement on them to assess risk. He said, “If they don’t believe it’s essential, they should explain why.”
He spoke at the close of two days’ worth of evidence during the inquests into the deaths of two drowning men. Dessie Keenan, the sole survivor of this tragedy was the best-known witness.
Mr Keenan is a Derry native and was in the water more than six hours. After the boat submerged, Keenan managed to hold onto the fender that was attached to his front.
He was finally rescued by an passing lobster fisherman. The inquest heard from him about the failure of their engine and they decided that he would anchor the boat to start it up again.
He saw panic in Mr Doherty’s face and knew that they were in serious trouble. The boat was suddenly flooded. Mr Doherty ordered Mr Weir and instructed him to take the life jackets. He also told Mr Keenan that he would call emergency services.
The court was shown his frantic phone call to emergency services. You can hear him saying, “I need to the coastguard,” …” He was then thrown in the water.
The jury, consisting of two women and four men, concluded that both deaths were accidental. The jury found that Mr Doherty died from drowning, while Thomas Weir was killed by asystolic heart arrest after submersion in salt water.