Memorial plaque for Limerick bridge victims put on hold

DOUBLE TRAGEDY:  TWO-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF DROWNING 

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Memorial plaque for Limerick bridge victims put on hold

The scene of the incident in August 2015, as the cage in which the men were working from was recovered from the river

PLANS to erect a plaque in Limerick city in memory of two men who died tragically while working on Thomond Bridge two years ago have temporarily been put on hold.

Sinn Fein councillor John Costelloe put forward a motion at this week’s council meeting to erect a memorial plaque in remembrance of Bryan Whelan, 29, and T.J. Herlihy, 36, who died tragically while carrying on restoration works on the historic Thomond Bridge on August 29, 2015.

At the time, three men were working on the bridge in a cage like structure suspended by a cable over the River Shannon when the structure snapped and plunged into the water.

All three were harnessed and wearing lifejackets, which they were required to do under safety regulations. But when they became submerged under water, only one man survived.

Paul Murphy, originally from Wexford but living in Co Limerick, who was in the cage when it crashed into the river, managed to free himself from a harness and make his way to safety.

Mr Herlihy had just started work with the contracting company, Irish Bridge, on that Saturday, the day of the incident.

A report by the Health & Safety Authority into the circumstances surrounding their deaths has not been published publicly.

Former mayor of Limerick, Independent councillor John Gilligan, said this is a “very sensitive issue” as a number of people have lost their lives in the River Shannon in tragic and unfortunate incidents, and they too may wish to see a plaque erected in memory of their loved ones who perished in the water.

“The River Shannon takes a lot of people every year and we need to be sensitive about this and get this right,” urged Cllr Gilligan.

Councillor Michael Sheahan stressed that the families of both men should also be consulted before any plaque is erected.

Kieran Lehane, director of physical development at Limerick City and County Council, said this has been raised at a number of meetings, and it had been proposed to have a “shared memorial due to a number of incidents around the river.”

Cllr Costelloe said that he is meeting with council officials this Thursday for further talks, saying the grieving families of both men “deserve a focal point” where they can pray and place a wreath. He said the men were carrying out works for a contractor at the council’s request at the time, and that “they did not die of their own volition.”