TWO companies are to face a criminal trial next March in relation to the deaths of two stonemasons, who drowned whilst carrying out work on Thomond Bridge, six years ago.
Father of two Tim ‘TJ’ O’Herlihy (36), from Castleisland, Co Kerry, died alongside his workmate, Bryan Whelan, (29), from O’Briensbridge, Co Clare, after they both became trapped beneath the surface of the River Shannon, on August 29, 2015.
The victims were working from a cage-like platform that was suspended over the side of the bridge and held by a cable which was attached to a crane, when the platform plunged into the river and both men who were wearing life-jackets and harnessed into the cage, drowned.
Speaking outside the court today, Monday, through their solicitor Rachael O’Shaughnessy, John and Margaret Whelan, parents of Bryan Whelan, said: “We are relieved that all parties involved in the Health and Safety Authority’s criminal prosecution are finally prepared for a trial date to be set. We have waited more than six years to get answers as to why our 29-year old son died tragically in a workplace accident, at Thomond Bridge, in August 2015.”
“We have suffered immeasurable grief, and this delay has been heartbreaking. However, we hope that today brings us one step closure to gaining closure,” they added.
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Paul Murphy, (26), from Askeaton, Co Limerick, who was working alongside Mr Herlihy and Mr Whelan on the platform, was rescued by emergency services after he managed to swim away from the submerged platform.
Following an investigation by gardai and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), criminal prosecutions were brought against Nationwide Crane Hire Limited, with a registered address at Dock Road, Limerick, as well as Palfinger Ireland Limited, registered at Church Hill, Cloncollog, Tullamore, Co Offaly.
At Limerick Circuit Court today, Judge Tom O’Donnell listed the case for trial on March 28, 2022. The families of both victims, who were present in court, heard that the trial would likely last up to two weeks.
Judge O’Donnell remarked that he was “taken aback” at the amount of cases, just over 370, listed on the callover of cases to fix dates for trial at the Limerick Circuit Court.
Nationwide Crane Hire faces two charges, that it allegedly exposed the workers to risk by failing to ensure that a crane and winch, which were mounted on a truck were in a safe condition; and that, an “overload protection safety device” on the crane was defective, and “did not operate to protect the wire on the winch rope from being overloaded”.
Palfinger Ireland faces a single related charge from March 12, 2003, the date it imported and supplied the crane to Nationwide Crane Hire, that it allegedly failed to adequately inform Nationwide Crane Hire Ltd about the use for which the crane was designed or provide information about “the carrying out of a functional test of the safety overload protection system”.
The two defendants have yet to indicate a plea.