Sunday 23 October 2016

'Gentleman' Bryan Whelan who died in river cage tragedy to be laid to rest today

Bryan Whelan
Bryan Whelan
TJ Herlihy

One of the young men who lost his life while carrying out works on a Limerick bridge is to be laid to rest today.

The funeral mass of tragic stonemason Bryan Whelan will take place in Kilbane Church near his home O'Brien's Bridge, Co Clare, at midday.

He will be buried a short time after in the adjoining cemetery.

The 29-year-old, who was "tirelessly dedicated to his craft", died alongside father-of-two Tim 'TJ' O'Herlihy.

The two men were killed after the cage-like platform on which theye were working plunged into the River Shannon on Saturday.

A cable attached to the cage, which was suspended over the side of Thomond Bridge, gave way, plunging the workers into the river.

Both victims were wearing life-jackets but were also in harnesses which were attached to the cage, which left them trapped underwater.

A third worker, 36-year-old Paul Murphy from Askeaton in Co Limerick, managed to free his harness and swim down river to raise the alarm.

Rescue workers say the dead men were under water for at least 10 minutes.

Speaking to the Herald, Bryan's sister-in-law Maura said he "loved his work."

"He was a true gentleman who would drop everything at a moment's notice should you need him", she added.

"We are just heartbroken. Bryan was a fantastic son, brother and uncle.

"His level of determination matched the demanding nature of his job, which he took great pride in. He lived for his job.

"He lived life to the fullest and will be deeply missed by us and his wide circle of friends."


Maura also offered her sympathies to the family of tradesman TJ, who had just started work the day he was killed, after spending years living abroad.

The 36-year old from Claireisland, Co Kerry, is to be laid to rest on Friday in his native village.

The talented rugby player and footballer had just moved back home from Sweden, where he lived with his partner Tessa.

"He moved back home to find a house and job and she was to join him on Monday with his four-year-old son Conor and his little six-month-old girl Katie," his heartbroken brother Micheal said.

"He had just found a house and moved in and was waiting for his family to join him.

"It was his first day on the job. He wasn't supposed to start until next week, but he got the call to come in early and was delighted with the extra work," Michael added.

"He will be remembered as a gentle giant, a happy-go-lucky soul with a big smile who had all the time in the world for whoever he met, in whatever little corner of the world that happened to be," he said.

Metropolitan Mayor of Limerick Jerry O'Dea said the city of Limerick is in mourning following the tragic incident.

"Although these men were not from Limerick, the whole city is in mourning," he said.

"Limerick is very good at acting in solidarity with events like this.

"There will be a candlelight ceremony on Saturday evening at 8.30pm at the bridge to pay our respects to the two men."

It's understood the works on the bridge will be suspended until a full review of the incident has taken place.


The men were working for Irish Bridge, a Limerick company who were contracted by Limerick City and County Council to carry out the essential repair works.

In a statement a company spokesperson said they were heartbroken by the news.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, relatives and friends at this very sad time," said the company.

The firm thanked all the emergency service personnel "for their professionalism."

"We will, of course, co-operate fully with all authorities examining the incident," it added.

The company will not be making any further comment.

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