The third anniversary of the deaths of two local anglers in a fishing accident has been marked with a poignant memorial service in Athlone.
David Warnock, from Richhill, and Daryl Burke, Portadown, were on an expedition with their club, Portadown Pikers, when their boat capsized on Lough Ree, outside the County Westmeath town.
Mr Warnock, a father-of-one, was pulled from the water but died later in hospital while the body of Mr Burke was found after 16 days of exhaustive searches. His wife gave birth to their fourth child just weeks later.
On Saturday, around 12 people, including members of the Pikers and family members of the two men, attended the service at Coosan Point, organised by the RNLI Athlone.
A bench was also unveiled to the two anglers, who were founding members of the club..
The bench was donated by Coosan Community Group, Kevin ‘boxer’ Moran, TD, and Damien Delaney of the RLNI, while members of the pikers had a plaque made to go on it.
Jill Quinn, secretary of Portadown Pikers, said, “It was a fitting tribute to the Pikers who list their lives. They were two great ambassadors for fishing.
“It was hard to believe sitting looking out at the lough, on such a beautiful day, that you can go out on the water and it can change in seconds.”
Both Jill and her husband Noel, who is chairman of the club, addressed the gathering.
They spoke of the impact the accident had had on the club and on the men’s families and said they were “humbled” by the gesture from the community in Athlone.
Jill thanked everyone who had helped in the rescue operation and search.
Lord Mayor of Athlone John Dolan and Mr Moran also spoke while MC duties were carried out by Mr Delaney.
The prayer service was given by Fr Declan Shannon and Canon Trevor Sullivan.
The men’s names are also included on a memorial at Cooson Point to all those who have lost their lives on Lough Ree.
Said Jill, “Portadown Pikers would like to thank everyone from the local community, the emergency services and local dignitaries for attending the service and their continued support.
“I have never met such kind people.”
The men were part of a six-man fishing party. The third person on the ill-fated boat, John Trimble, survived and recovered after treatment in hospital.
Their fellow anglers were in another boat and escaped unharmed but very shocked.