The circumstances surrounding the drowning of a Connemara fisherman may never be known, an inquiry into his death was told last week.
In what was a second inquiry into his death, members of a jury were told by the Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin, that questions raised by the man’s family, who were a ‘seafaring family’, gave cause to call an expert witness.
The body of Michael Mulkerrin (47), from Carna, was found at Rinville, Oranmore, on November 23, 2017, just hours after a search operation was launched when Mr Mulkerrin failed to return to the Docks having left on the morning of November 22.
Mr Mulkerrin’s boat was found near Silverstrand in Barna and his family had previously said it was their belief that his body would not have been carried by the current on that particular night to the location in Oranmore where he was eventually found.
The inquest heard from the housemate of Mr Mulkerrin, Danielle Butler, that the pair had been house sharing in Coillte Merlin, Ballybane, and had shared a taxi to town on the morning of November 22.
“[Mr Mulkerrin] said he had a few things to do around town, like going to the Credit Union, and then he was going out on the boat.
“I work in Dock 1 [bar on Dock Road] and he would usually come in after he returned. He didn’t come in that evening,” said Ms Butler.
Ross Forde, a volunteer with the RNLI, said the alert was first raised with them around 9pm on the night in question and told Dr MacLoughlin they had launched in the direction of Rinville, given their technology had indicated this was where the tide was going.
The rescue helicopter later found the boat at around 11pm and volunteer with the RNLI, David Badger, was first to inspect the vessel, turning on the lights but finding there was no sign of Mr Mulkerrin on board.
“His phone was in the cabin and the boat was ticking over, and the engine was in neutral,” said Mr Badger.
There was some dispute over whether or not the engine was running, but Mr Mulkerrin’s father, Marcas Mulkerrin, said he believed this account was correct as it was his son’s practice to leave the boat running when checking lobster pots.
While the day had started calm, the inquiry heard that conditions had begun to deteriorate and that wind speeds reached somewhere between Force 5 and Force 8.
Martin Oliver of the RNLI noted that there were a number of lobster pots hanging overboard and that there was a rope caught around the propeller.
“The boat was facing with its back, the stern, into the weather and wind,” said Mr Oliver.
A decision was taken to bring the boat back to the docks where Mr Oliver said Marcas Mulkerrin and his son, Patrick were waiting.
The search was suspended for the night at around 2.30am due to worsening conditions but was recommenced at 8am the following morning.
A body was discovered by RNLI crew at Rinville at around noon on Thursday, November 23, when those aboard the Aran Lifeboat saw what they believed to be yellow oil skins on the beach.
Garda Nicholas Delaney got to the scene at 12.45pm where he witnessed the body of a man, dressed in yellow oil skins.
Dr Dan Murphy pronounced the man dead at 1.24pm.
Due to questions raised in the previous inquiry, Kieran Lyons of the Marine Institute in Oranmore was commissioned to carry out a simulation establishing the possibility for Mr Mulkerrin’s body to have gone overboard at Silverstrand and to have reached Rinville by the next morning.
The family had said they didn’t believe it possible, due to the fact that Mr Mulkerrin was still wearing wellington boots when his body was discovered.
Marcas Mulkerrin said he felt the boots would have acted as “an anchor”, dragging his son to the ocean bed – particularly as he wasn’t wearing a life jacket when found.
Mr Lyons stated: “It was plausible, though not inevitable, for a body to be transported to the location where Mr Mulkerrin was found”.
A simulation was used to establish an assertion by Mr Lyons that to have reached Rinville, Mr Mulkerrin’s body could not have been less than three meters from the surface.
“Mr Mulkerrin was not wearing a life jacket and so we cannot assume his body remained above the surface,” he added.
A post mortem examination was carried out by Consultant Pathologist at UHG, Dr Thomas Fitzgerald, on November 24.
Dr Fitzgerald said there was no evidence of any other injuries and said his findings were “death as a result of drowning”.
The Coroner, Dr MacLoughlin told the jury they would have to be considerate of the fact that they did not know how Mr Mulkerrin ended up in the water.
“What we don’t know is how he got in the water – whether it was as a result of falling over, that is purely speculation.
“We don’t know if he went in intentionally – that would be speculation. There is no evidence of a struggle onboard [the boat] and there is no evidence of a struggle on the body,” he outlined.
The foreman of a seven-person jury returned a unanimous decision of “drowning, with an open verdict”.
Dr MacLoughlin said the inquest could not establish an exact location of where the death occurred but would record it as Galway Bay.
“The finding of an inquest is that Michael Mulkerrin died in Galway Bay on November 22, 2017. The cause of death, in accordance with the medical evidence, is drowning, with the qualification of an open verdict,” said Dr MacLoughlin.
He extended his sincere sympathies to the family of Mr Mulkerrin and thanked the jury for carrying out their civic duty.
Galway to complete vaccine roll-out by end of the summer
On the first anniversary of Covid-19’s deadly arrival into Ireland, the head of the Saolta hospital group has predicted that all who want the vaccine will have received it by the end of the summer.
Tony Canavan, CEO of the seven public hospitals, told the Connacht Tribune that the HSE was planning to set up satellite centres from the main vaccination hub at the Galway Racecourse to vaccinate people on the islands and in the most rural parts of the county.
While locations have not yet been signed up, the HSE was looking at larger buildings with good access that could be used temporarily to carry out the vaccination programme over a short period.
“We do want to reach out to rural parts of the region instead of drawing in people from the likes of Clifden and over from the islands. The plan is to set up satellites from the main centre, sending out small teams out to the likes of Connemara,” he explained.
“Ideally we’d run it as close as possible to the same time that the main centres are operating once that is set up. Communication is key – if people know we’re coming, it will put people’s minds at rest.”
Get all the latest Covid-19 coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Galway meteorologist enjoying new-found fame in the sun!
Growing up in Galway where four seasons in a day is considered a soft one, Linda Hughes always had a keen interest in the weather.
But unlike most Irish people, instead of just obsessing about it, she actually went and pursued it as a career.
The latest meteorologist to appear on RTE’s weather forecasts hails from Porridgtown, Oughterard, and brings with her an impressive background in marine forecasting.
She spent six years in Aerospace and Marine International in Aberdeen, Scotland, which provides forecasts for the oil and gas industry.
The 33-year-old was a route analyst responsible for planning routes for global shipping companies. She joined the company after studying experimental physics in NUIG and doing a masters in applied meteorology in Redding in the UK.
“My job was to keep crews safe and not lose cargo by picking the best route to get them to their destination as quickly as possibly but avoiding hurricanes, severe storms,” she explains.
“It was a very interesting job, I really enjoyed it but it was very stressful as you were dealing with bad weather all the time because there’s always bad weather in some part of the world.”
Read the full interview with Linda Hughes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Great-great-grandmother home after Covid, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery
Her family are understandably calling her their miracle mum – because an 81 year old great-great-grandmother from Galway has bounced back from Covid-19, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery since Christmas…to return hale and hearty, to her own home.
But Mary Quinn’s family will never forget the trauma of the last three months, as the Woodford woman fought back against all of the odds from a series of catastrophic set-backs.
The drama began when Mary was found with a bleed on her brain on December 16. She was admitted to Portiuncula Hospital, and transferred to Beaumont a day later where she underwent an emergency procedure – only to then suffer a stroke.
To compound the crisis, while in Beaumont, she contracted pneumonia, suffered heart failure and developed COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – the inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.
“Christmas without mom; things did not look good,” said her daughter Catherine Shiel.
But the worst was still to come – because before Mary was discharged, she contracted Covid-19.
Read Mary’s full, heart-warming story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie