‘I couldn’t reach them’ – Heartbreaking accounts of teens who tried to save pals drowning in quarry Two boys who dreamed of playing rugby for their beloved Munster were found unresponsive and submerged in a disused quarry lake after going…

Jack Kenneally (left) and Shay Moloney played for Ennis Rugby Club. Photo: Press 22
Jack Kenneally (left) and Shay Moloney played for Ennis Rugby Club. Photo: Press 22
The Kenneally family and Jack’s father Sean arrive at Limerick Coroner’s Court. Photo: Press 22

David Raleigh

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  • ‘I couldn’t reach them’ – Heartbreaking accounts of teens who tried to save pals drowning in quarry
    Independent.ie
    Two boys who dreamed of playing rugby for their beloved Munster were found unresponsive and submerged in a disused quarry lake after going for a swim with friends on a hot, sunny day in May last year.
    https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/i-couldnt-reach-them-heartbreaking-accounts-of-teens-who-tried-to-save-pals-drowning-in-quarry-37815335.html
    https://www.independent.ie/incoming/article37814974.ece/e1c7a/AUTOCROP/h342/41Jack%20Kenneally%201l.jpg
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Two boys who dreamed of playing rugby for their beloved Munster were found unresponsive and submerged in a disused quarry lake after going for a swim with friends on a hot, sunny day in May last year.

An inquest held at Limerick Coroner’s Court yesterday into the deaths of 15-year-old Ennis rugby players Jack Kenneally and Shay Moloney returned verdicts of accidental deaths due to drowning.

Heartbreaking depositions from three of the boys’ friends, who had been swimming with them, but were unable to save them on the day, were read into the record.

The five friends decided to go for a swim at the former quarry at Knockaneen, outside Ennis, on May 31 last year, despite signs there warning people of the dangers of entering the site.

One of the boys, aged 16, told gardaí: “I was trying to keep Shay up, keep him calm for two minutes. My arms got too tired, and I couldn’t hold him any more.”

Another boy, aged 15, told gardaí he had led the party of five to an rocky island on the lake where they had planned to perform jumps into the water.

He said as the rest of the party approached the island, he observed Jack Kenneally “sort of panicky swimming”.

“He looked tired,” he said.

Another boy “was trying to hold up Jack”, he said.

As both of them tried to help Jack, they saw that Shay was struggling in the water.

“That’s when we realised we couldn’t save them both,” the boy said.

“I rang 999, I told them the two lads were going under the water. ‘999’ rang me back, as (the ambulance) went to (another) quarry, and they asked me, where was I.”

The boy said paramedics eventually tracked his location after he sent the ambulance service the GPS location of his mobile phone.

Dean Coughlan (19), of Station Road, Ennis, who was passing at the time, told gardaí that he had rushed to the lake after hearing the boys “screaming”.

He told gardaí that as he made his way towards the water, he could see one of the boys “trying to keep Shay up”. He added: “I was close when I saw them go down… only (one) came back up… he was distraught.”

Ennis firefighters, who were at the time attending to another call, arrived at the scene at 3.30pm, nine minutes after receiving the drowning alert.

Firefighters were in the water at 3.47pm, however, in another frustrating twist, despite being able to see Jack and Shay submerged in the lake, they could not reach them.

“We have buoyancy aids to keep us on the surface. We have no sub-surface capabilities in the fire service,” explained Steve Hayes, the most senior member of Ennis Fire Service at the scene on the day.

He said the boys’ bodies were “just down too deep”.

David Woods, a witness who came on to the scene, said he entered the water to try to help retrieve the boys’ bodies.

“I could see them as clear as day, but I couldn’t reach them,” Mr Woods told gardaí.

Michael O’Rourke, a diver attached to Ennis Sub Aqua Club, raced to the scene after seeing the Coast Guard rescue helicopter in the area.

Despite encountering poor visibility under water at the time of his dive, he eventually retrieved the bodies of the two young victims shortly before 4.30pm.

Paramedics performed CPR on Jack and Shay for over 30 minutes at the scene, before both were airlifted to University Hospital Limerick.

Alan West, senior advanced paramedic who responded to the scene, told gardaí: “They were not breathing, and their hearts were not beating.”

Limerick Coroner Dr John McNamara returned verdicts of accidental death due to drowning.

On foot of a suggestion from Sean Kenneally, father of Jack, Dr McNamara said he would make a recommendation that the owners of the quarry erect life buoys at the site.

Irish Independent

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