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Sunday 23 July 2017

Tributes to 'great worker' buried alive in wind farm landslide tragedy

Patrick McCaffery and his wife Helen who was at the scene
Patrick McCaffery and his wife Helen who was at the scene

Tributes have been paid to an engineer killed in a "freak" landslide on the site of a new wind farm.

It took a rescue crew seven hours to find the body of Patrick McCaffrey (37), after tonnes of peaty earth came tumbling down on top of him.

The accident happened after darkness fell on Monday at a new wind farm site in the townland of Gubbarudda just inside Co Sligo and 3km from the village of Ballyfarnon.

The site, 330 metres above sea level, is being developed by Tralee-based Moriarty Civil Engineering in an area famous for its coal mines.

Digger

Mr McCaffrey was on foot while a colleague was working in a digger when the landslide happened "suddenly", a spokesperson for Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue said.

The men, along with the digger, were understood to have been moved at least 150m by the slippage. The man on the digger was unhurt, but Mr McCaffrey was trapped.

A large search and rescue operation commenced under "extremely difficult conditions", with poor visibility and unstable terrain from 7pm Monday night until after 2am yesterday.

The operation included gardai from Ballymote and Boyle, fire services from Co Roscommon, Co Sligo and Co Leitrim, along with Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue, workers and neighbours who arrived on the scene to help.

The body of Mr McCaffrey was located using thermal imaging from the fire service and was recovered after 2am.

His wife, Helen, had been taken to the scene of the accident and watched the recovery operation.

His manager, Colin Scott, said everyone in the company have been left devastated by the death.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr McCaffrey's family. Nothing like this has ever happened before," he said.

"It's a devastating loss to everyone. Patrick was a great worker and a superb employee who worked on our sites right around Ireland. We are still trying to take it all in."

Patrick and his wife Helen, who is originally from Tullaghan, Co Leitrim, moved to the Rossinver area four years ago. The couple were left devastated a year ago after losing their newborn baby.

Philip Rooney, chair of the Rossinver Youth and Community Project, said the local community was rallying around Helen after the tragedy.

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