Accidental death verdict in Lough Ree tragedy

Drowning victim Daryl Burke with wife Louise. INPT0713-210.
Drowning victim Daryl Burke with wife Louise. INPT0713-210.

A coroner’s court has recorded a verdict of accidental death at the inquest of Portadown man Daryl Burke who drowned on a fishing trip last year.

The inquest heard that Mr Burke, a member of Portadown Pikers Angling Club, usually wore a life jacket but was not wearing one on this occasion.

A coroner’s jury, sitting at the inquest in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, on Wednesday recommended that in future all fishermen wear life jackets.

Coroner Desmond O’Connor paid tribute to all those volunteers who had searched for 16 days to recover Mr Burke’s body.

Mr Burke (30), whose wife Louise gave birth to their fourth child just weeks after his death, had gone on the fishing trip to Lough Ree with five friends last March.

Local fisherman David Warnock also died after being rescued from the water.

The deposition of one of the fishing party, John Trimble, was read out at the inquest. He said the men arrived in Athlone later than they planned as they had a blowout on the boat trailer on the way.

It was his first ever boat fishing trip, as he had always fished from the shore.

Mr Trimble said that there was a ‘swell’ in the water and that neither he nor Daryl Burke wanted to head out in the water, so they sat talking for up to 20 minutes waiting for the weather to clear.

He said they had spoken to a man who was familiar with fishing in the area, who told them they were mad to go out with the weather conditions as they were at the time.

When the weather improved, the men set sail with Mr Trimble sitting in the front and Mr Burke and Mr Warnock also in the boat.

Mr Trimble said that when they first went out in the 16’ boat, it was sailing well. However, after about 10 minutes, waves starting hitting the boat to the front and it began to fill with water.

He said the boat went down and seemed to disappear, that the waves were battering him and it seemed like he was in the water “for a lifetime” and that it was like trying to “swim up a wall”.

He eventually made his way to an island, where he was dragged out by other members of the angling club.

The coroner’s jury ruled in line with medical evidence that the cause of death was drowning.