| 1.7°C Dublin

Deaths prompt drinking at sea alert

Marine investigators have warned about drinking at sea after an inquiry into the deaths of a well-known footballer and a businessman off Inishbofin.

Ger Feeney, 56, a former GAA All-Star for Mayo, and Donal McEllin, 63, from Castlebar, drowned trying to return to their motor cruiser off the small island in the early hours of October 10 last year.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) found they had spent a number of hours socialising in Day's Pub on the island just before the incident and their deaths were likely down to tiredness and the effects of alcohol.

A report said Mr Feeney and Mr McEllin were en route from Clew Bay to Galway Docks on Mr McEllin's cruiser Quo Vadis when they decided to stop off at Inishbofin overnight.

They had been intending to travel on to Galway early the next morning in time for the high tide.

The men went ashore in an inflatable dinghy after mooring in the island harbour and spent hours in Day's Pub, investigators said.

Later, in the early hours of the morning, they declined an offer to be ferried back to their 13-metre cruiser and took their dinghy back instead, a witness reported.

Using the headlights of his jeep, the witness said he assured himself both men had reached the vessel safely before he left the pier.

While they had agreed to turn off the external lights to the boat as soon as they boarded, it was assumed they had forgotten.

Mr McEllin's body was discovered by a fisherman on a nearby beach later that morning, while Mr Feeney's body was recovered pinned under the upturned dinghy with one of the straps of his life jacket caught on the outboard engine.

Mr McEllin's life-jacket was not properly tied at the groin strap and had become entangled around his head.

It is believed the men drowned trying to make it back on board the motor cruiser.

The MCIB report stated: "Based on the available evidence, it is the opinion of the board that the fatalities most likely resulted from a combination of executing a night-time transfer from a small inflatable tender to a vessel that was swinging on a mooring, possible tiredness and diminished human performance resulting from the effects of alcohol consumed during the preceding hours while socialising ashore."

The marine investigators warned anyone taking part in boating to recognise the risks of consuming alcohol while at sea.

© Press Association