River: Clodagh River
Location: Portlaw weir, Co. Waterford
Date of Incident: 07 April 2010
Published: 26 April 2011
On 7th April 2010, Mr. Philip Kelly, Mr. Connie Smith and Mr. Derek Elliott entered the water in their kayaks at Curraghmore Estate in Whitestown, Co. Waterford, Ireland and paddled downstream for about 30 minutes until they reached the weir at Portlaw. Whilst attempting to navigate the weir, Mr. Philip Kelly and Mr. Connie Smith lost their lives.
Tuesday May 10 2011
The Corkman wrote:A river weir in which two men drowned on a canoeing trip is impassable, accident investigators have found.
Experts reviewing the deaths of Philip Kelly, from Aherlow, Tipperary and Connie Smith, from Killashandra, Cavan, on the Clodagh in north Waterford on April 7 last year found the route cannot be passed by boat.
The men drowned after getting stuck in a weir at Portlaw, which is too short for kayaks and canoes regardless how quick or heavy the flow of water is.
The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) found the men, who were on a trip with Derek Elliott, of Knockaderry, Co Limerick, did not carry out a "recce" of the route beforehand.
However, they said the river conditions, severely swollen by heavy rain, were not necessarily the reason for the tragedy.
Mr Elliot ran from the weir to raise the alarm when the men got stuck but by the time he came back his friends had drowned.
The three experienced canoeists only decided to try to pass the weir after barking dogs forced them to change their minds about walking back to their car.
The MCIB recommended canoeists always walk the river bank along a route they wish to use before entering the water and also note the effect of rainfall.
The Irish Canoe Union said it would like to see all weirs similar to the Portlaw design identified in order to alert canoeists and kayakers on first-time river trips.
Waterford County Council said lifesaving gear and warning signs about the weir have been installed on the Clodagh. Officials said life buoys previously installed on the river were vandalised prior to the accident and were not replaced.
- IWW Forum
RTE News wrote:Two men in their 20s have drowned after getting into difficulty while kayaking in Co Waterford last night.
Garda say the men have not yet been identified.
The bodies of the two men were recovered after they got into difficulty while kayaking in the River Clodagh, a tributary of the River Suir, at Portlaw.
It is understood the men became trapped in a weir at around 9pm.
Dublin Coastguard said the first body was recovered at around 10pm and the second was pulled from the water at 11.30pm.
A man, who is understood to have witnessed the incident from the river bank, is helping garda establish what happened.
Two kayakers drown in weir-trap tragedy
Thursday April 08 2010
Irish Independent wrote:TWO kayakers were drowned last night after they were trapped at a weir on a river. A third managed to escape and raised the alarm.
But despite a major operation at the weir at Portlaw, on the River Clodagh, a tributary of the Suir, Co Waterford, both men, in their early 20s, lost their lives. The tragedy happened close to the old tannery site in Portlaw.
It is believed the men, both from Co Waterford, may have kayaked from the village of Clonea Power about five miles away.
It is understood they had earlier left the river and had been making their way up a laneway.
But they were frightened by aggressive dogs and decided to return to the river.
The first locals knew of the disaster was around 9.30pm.
Members of the fire service tried to get to the men but could not. The Marine Rescue Coordination Centre in Dublin was alerted. It sent Coast Guard units from Bonmahon and Dunmore East to the scene.
The Dunmore team was about three-quarters of a mile down the river when the first body broke free from the weir around 10pm.
The team managed to pull out the body as it drifted past them.
The body of the second kayaker was trapped at the weir but was impossible to reach by boat.
The Coast Guard S-61 rescue helicopter was then scrambled to try to winch the kayaker out of the river.
But the mission was too dangerous as there were too many electric domestic cables in the area.
Coastguard teams opened the weir enough to release the body and it was finally recovered about 11.30pm.
Jim Griffin of the Dunmore East Coast Guard said they knew "very little" about how the tragedy happened as they were detailed to find the bodies.
"We got a call from the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre to get here to Portlaw and assist kayakers in trouble," he said.
Seamus Power of the Bonmahon unit said it was difficult for all concerned to see the bodies being taken out of the water.
"It was a tough night," he said.
The units were afraid at one point that the bodies might get carried further along the river.
As dozens of emergency service personnel worked in the darkness, a large crowd watched in silence while waiting for news. Locals said the river can run high and dangerous after a spell of heavy rain, particularly at a water intake area which has a fish pass.
Supt Jeremiah Lynch of Tramore garda station said it was "a terrible tragedy" for two young men to lose their lives.
"There can be some difficult currents at that particular spot," he said.
Local councillor Brendan Coffey said it was unclear what exactly happened to the two men.
However, he pointed out that the weir area can be difficult for rowers and kayakers after a spell of heavy rain such as was experienced earlier in the week.
"This is a tragic situation," he said.
- Brendan Farrelly, Conor Kane and Breda Heffernan
- And eye witness account of what happened:
Independent.ie - By Barry Duggan Friday April 09 2010 wrote:'I would not be alive if it wasn't for Phil and Connie'
Survivor Derek prays for friends who died in kayak accident
THE only survivor of a kayaking tragedy last night praised his two friends for saving his life moments before the pair drowned.
A tearful Derek Elliott recalled the horror as his two friends, Philip Kelly and Connie Smith, died on the Clodiagh River at Portlaw, Co Waterford.
The trio had spent the evening kayaking along the river before tragedy struck at a weir around 9pm on Wednesday night.
"Phil went in to save Connie and if it wasn't for the two boys roaring back at me, 'Don't come in, don't come in', I'd be dead as well," Derek said.
"They saved my life and it's as simple as that. You'll never get something like this from your mind. My thoughts and prayers will always be with them. I wouldn't be here talking to you if it wasn't for them," he said.
Philip (31) from Co Tipperary and Connie (34) from Co Cavan lived together on the outskirts of Waterford city. Philip worked alongside Derek (26) from Knockaderry, Co Limerick, in the research and development laboratory of Teva Pharmaceuticals while Connie was employed with the Waterford City Council as an engineer.
It emerged last night that Connie Smith's sister gave birth to a baby girl yesterday.
After finishing work, the three friends began kayaking downstream along the Clodiagh River.
"We had kayaked a good few times before -- last year we did Arklow to Graiguenamanagh so we know what it's like. The two lads would be far better than me though," Derek said.
"We had one or two dodgy parts yesterday, there was a tree down at one place, but we got through it -- we were a small bit shook."
Upon reaching the weir at the old tannery in Portlaw, they decided it was too dangerous to traverse.
"I suppose because we all saw along the way how powerful Mother Nature can be, we saw this (the weir) and said it was too big. We turned back and pulled the kayaks out.
"Everything was out of the water. We walked down along here (through the Tannery), looked in gates and saw some dogs coming out. I don't know what they were -- they looked like rottweilers.
"One was looking at me and more came out. We thought: 'Jesus they could jump that at any stage.' We ran back up and said we'll go down it.
"Phil and Connie pulled the kayaks back in while I stood outside with the paddle in case any of them (the dogs) came down to belt them off."
"Connie said: 'Sure look, I'll tear down.' He went down and you could see the paddle swinging about. 'Jesus what is going on there,' I said. Phil went down to save him -- to make sure he (Connie) was alright. Phil would have been the best (kayaker) out of the three of us."
"Then I saw two paddles swinging. They just started screaming: 'Don't come down, don't come down -- get up, get up, go back'.
"I came back and climbed up. They had been thrown out of the kayaks. They had the jackets, the helmets and all the gear and were trying to swim -- I don't know.
"They said get rope, but there was nothing around so I started running.
"I started banging on doors. A Polish lad jumped the gate with me and ran back down. He was with me for 20 minutes trying to get the lads.
"One woman cut her clothes line and brought it down, I broke a piece off a window-sill, but it was too late. We knew it was too late."
Emergency services were quickly on the scene, including Carrick-on-Suir river rescue and the Coast Guard helicopter, which proved crucial in the operation to retrieve the bodies.
"One fireman was willing to tie the clothes line around him and jump in," Derek said.
Both of the deceased were keen on outdoor pursuits. Kayaking trips to Lough Derg in a fortnight had been planned along with a hiking trip in Wexford as well as attending the Fleadh Cheoil in Co Cavan.
- Barry Duggan
I must say it bears horrible a resemblance to the indecent on the Barrow, which also resulted in two deaths. You can read that report here.
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