Masons attached to cage for bridge repairs drown when cage falls

Two stonemasons who had been working on repairs to a bridge on the River Shannon in Ireland died when the cage they were working in fell into the river. A third mason escaped.

The men who died were from Co Clare and Co Kerry. They had been standing in a cage platform carrying out remedial works to Thomond Bridge in Limerick City when the platform plunged into the river at about 3.45pm on 29 August. They have been named as Timothy 'TJ' O'Herlihy from Castleisland and Brian Whelan from Co Clare.

The cage was being held on cables from a crane. Apparently, one of the cables broke, sending the cage and the men falling into the river below. The men were wearing life jackets and harnesses attached to the cage. It was not a long fall and the men were only about 60cm under the water. The bodies of the two who died were recovered by divers from Limerick Marine Search & Rescue Service (LMSRS) and Limerick City Fire Service.

According to one of the divers, the two men had not been able to disconnect their life jackets from the cage and were trapped under the water. The third man managed to free himself from his harness and was rescued later floating further downstream. He said later he could not swim and had been concerned about falling into the water. He had gone through in his mind how he would release the harness if the cage did fall. He believes his anticipation of  the event helped save his life.  

The cage was removed from the water on Saturday night and Thomond Bridge was reopened, having been closed for several hours during the incident.

A spokesperson for Limerick City Council said the remedial works on Thomond Bridge would be postponed for the foreseeable future.

Investigations are being carried out by the Health & Safety Authority and the Gardaí.

See for a local newspaper report.