Monday 24 October 2016

Bridge survivor: ‘I felt something bad was going to happen’

Paul Murphy, Thomond Bridge tragedy survivor, Limerick. Pic: Press 22
Paul Murphy, Thomond Bridge tragedy survivor, Limerick. Pic: Press 22
The scene of the accident on Thomond Bridge in Limerick which claimed the lives of TJ Herlihy and Bryan Whela
Tim 'TJ' O'Herlihy (36), from Castleisland, Co Kerry, died alongside his workmate when they became trapped underwater while carrying out remedial works at Thomond Bridge in Limerick on Saturday
Bryan Whelan

A man who miraculously survived a freak double drowning tragedy on the River Shannon has revealed how he managed to escape from a cage underwater.

Paul Murphy, who cannot swim, also described how he had a premonition something would go wrong.

Mr Murphy was one of three workmen strapped into a cage held by a cable attached to a crane positioned overlooking the river, when the cable snapped, sending all three into the water.

Father of two TJ O'Herilhy from Castelisland, and Bryan Whelan, 29, from Bridgetown, Co Clare, died in the incident after they became trapped underwater inside the cage.

Mr Murphy, originally from Wexford, but living in Askeaton, Co Limerick, managed to unhook himself from his harness that was attached to the cage before his life jacket floated him to the surface.

Mr O'Herlihy and Mr Whelan failed to unhook their harnesses and their bodies were found two feet below the surface still in the cage.

The three men had been carrying out structural repair works to Thomond Bridge, Limerick city, on August 29th, when the platform they were standing in collapsed into the river.

Speaking on local radio station, Limerick's Live 95FM, Mr Murphy said: "I can't swim at all, so all week when I was in the basket, I was studying myself, what if...for some reason, I don't know why...if anything did ever happen."

"In work we do our own safety plan...but for some reason, in the back of my head, all week, I was just thinking, and I would say to myself, if something does happen, I have to get out of the water."

"For some reason, I knew, if anything did happen I would have to get my harness off. That was I my head all week," he added.

"So when I did hear the bang, I knew I had to get air, and get the harness off."

He said: "I felt calm, because, once water went into my mouth, I said to myself I only have one chance to get this off."

"My mouth was full of water at this stage so I knew I had to get the harness off."

"I don't think I panicked until I hit the surface and tried to swim," he said.

The father of one, who is expecting his second child in November, added: "I can't remember seeing the harness. People were asking me could I see the boys beside me, I couldn't."

Mr Murphy paid tribute to his colleagues who lost their lives, and the emergency services who responded to the incident.

He also praised the 600 people who turned out at Thomond Bridge last Saturday for a candle lit vigil in memory of his late workmates.

He also thanked a teenager who ran along the river bank who kept throwing him a life ring and shouting safety instructions.

"I'd like to thank that young boy. That (memory) jumps out at me, that kindness of that young fella, he didn't know who I was, I could have been anybody, the kindness of him trying to save my life, even though I was ok. But, thank you very much whoever your are," Mr Murphy said.


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