Signs could have saved lives, says victim’s brother

The family of a man who drowned on a kayaking trip has urged the Minister for Transport to act on the findings of an investigation into the tragedy.

The family of a man who drowned on a kayaking trip has urged the Minister for Transport to act on the findings of an investigation into the tragedy.

Thirty one year old Philip Kelly from Cappawhite and his friend Connie Smith from County Cavan drowned on April 7th last year after getting stuck in a weir at Portlaw.

A report on the tragedy has been issued by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board which will now go to the Minister. The Kelly family from Cappawhite has called on the Minister to act on the recommendations in the report.

Experts reviewing the tragic deaths found the route on the River Clodagh could not be passed by boat. The weir was too short for kayaks and canoes no matter how heavy the flow of water.

“We are very upset that adequate signage was not in place at the time of Philip’s death” said the victim’s brother Pat.

“Two fine men from very large extended families are gone and neither family will ever get over that loss” said Mr Kelly.

“We feel if signs had been in place that day, warning them how dangerous it was, they would be with us today,” said Mr Kelly.

He said that his brother and his friends had taken all the necessary precautions and had all the proper gear with them.

“The lads had taken all the necessary safety precautions, they were competent and fit. There was no signage in place and it was obvious that there had been no signage in place for a long time,” said Mr Kelly.

Experts reviewing the deaths found that the men drowned at the dangerous weir where life-saving equipment, which had previously been damaged by vandals, had not been replaced.

The weir has been described by investigators from the Marine Casualty Investigations Board as ‘dangerous and unnavigable’. They recommended that it should not be used in its current form.

The two men were kayaking with another friend Derek Elliott from County Limerick.

They arrived at the weir shortly before 8pm and found the river ‘quite swollen’ and decided to exit the water.

However at an old disused factory,’The Tanner’, they heard dogs barking and believing there were security dogs free to patrol the area, they decided that ‘running the weir’ was the safer course.

Connie Smith got back into the water first but when he did not emerge on the far side of the weir, Phili Kelly went in after him. Both shouted at Derek Elliott to get help.

Mr. Elliot met a man living locally who got a washing line and made several attempts to throw it to the two kayakers. However, neither Conor nor Philip reacted or made any attempt to catch the line.

Waterford County Council said lifesaving gear and warning signs about the weir had since been installed on the Clodagh.

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