Portadown Piker Clifford Forbes, one of the three club members in the second boat on Lough Ree on the day of the fateful accident, has spoken for the first time after the loss of two of his friends in the tragedy that has shaken Ireland, north and south.
On the eve of yesterday’s funeral service when Daryl Burke was buried from St Columba’s Church of Ireland, Clifford was at the Burke home in Killicomaine, doing what he could to comfort Daryl’s family. He said he was relieved to see Daryl home and thanked everyone involved in finding his body after the relentless 16-day search.
Clifford, his son Stuart and fellow Portadown Piker Phil Neill were in their boat in front of the ill-fated craft carrying Daryl, David Warnock - who also perished as a result of the accident - and John Trimble who survived after being pulled from the water by the rescue services. David, too, was taken from the lough alive, but later died in hospital.
They were making their way to a favoured angling spot on the lough, having arranged to meet there, but became alarmed when the other three didn’t arrive.
Following the incident, Clifford was too upset to talk publicly, but this week he paid sad tribute to his great friends who had been eagerly looking forward to a relaxing weekend in one of their favourite ‘piking’ venues on the River Shannon system.
The friends and family of Daryl have said they are relieved to have him home and have thanked everyone involved in finding him. Clifford described David and Daryl as “true family men who loved their fishing and who died under very traumatic circumstances”.
He added, “They were - for me personally and for the guys in the club - personal friends, two real characters. David was chairman of the Portadown Pikers Club, Daryl was our events organiser. They both were extremely strong family men and would have had their kids with them on numerous occasions at events the club would have had.
“I don’t think words could describe how much they will be missed, especially by their families. Daryl’s wife Louise has been very strong - for herself, her family and her children.
“Down at Lough Ree, she got up every morning and went through the same regime and the same hurt and pain every day Daryl hadn’t been found. The only tribute, the highest, that I could pay to both of the deceased Pikers is the fact that they were true gentlemen. They were very passionate about helping others.
“More importantly was the fact that they, as fishermen, were the best ambassadors that anyone could wish to have. And I’ve no doubt that they’ll be doing the same up above.”
He was also full of admiration for John Trimble, who – having been seriously ill in hospital – came straight from his hospital bed to help in the search for Daryl. His information about the spot where the accident happened proved invaluable in the search.