The oyster fisherman who drowned in Co Clare yesterday was due to see his youngest child christened later in the day.
The body of the man, named locally as Bernard Mahoney (39) from Moveen, Kilkee, was spotted on the a mud bank as the tide receded following an 8-hour multi-agency search.
The father-of-three had been oyster farming at Cammoge Point, Poulnasherry Bay, Moyasta along with three other men. They had been using two tractors and trailers when they got cut off by the tide. It’s understood that one of the tractors may have become stuck as the water rose.
The men climbed on top of one tractor as they were quickly cut off by the tide.
At around 2.30am, a family living about 500 metres across the bay heard roaring and cries for help. Two men launched a boat and raced across the bay where they located three of the men.
Mr Mahoney was nowhere to be seen however and may have tried to swim ashore.
The Kilkee unit of the Irish Coast Guard and the Kilrush RNLI lifeboat were alerted at around 3.29am and travelled to the scene. Both volunteer units also sent land search teams to the area.
The Shannon based search and rescue helicopter was also requested to assist and searched the area for two hours before breaking away to refuel, returning at first light.
The Fenit RNLI lifeboat joined the search later in the morning while the crew of a Customs boat that had been in the Kilrush area offered assistance by making one of their RIB’s (rigid inflatable boats) available.
The Doolin (Clare) and Ballybunnion (Kerry) units of the Irish Coast Guard were also requested to assist while the crew of a pilot boat based at nearby Cappagh also offered its services.
Family members of the missing man, along with the three men who were rescued, visited the scene and waited for news where emergency services had established a command and control centre.
Several items including waders and gloves were located by rescue crews early in the search while one of the trailers was found close to where the accident happened.
Later, the two tractors, one with it’s trailer still attached, were found some distance from where they were originally believed to have been.
As the tide receded, the cabs of the vehicles began to appear above the surface prompting rescuers to focus their search in that area.
At around 10.40am, over seven hours after the search commenced, a member of the Fenit RNLI located a body as he walked along a mud bank as the water level dropped.
Two men, believed to be relatives of the dead man, walked out of through the oyster farm to the mud bank and could been seen kneeling next to the body.
The body was brought to Kilrush lifeboat station where a doctor pronounced the victim dead. The body was later removed to University Hospital Limerick where a postmortem examination was due to be carried out.
Mr Mahoney is survived by his wife Mairead and three children while he was predeceased by his mother Catherine and father Joe who only died in December.
Local Fine Gael Councillor Gabriel Keating said the entire community of Moveen and wider area have been left stunned by the tragedy.
“Bernard was a very hard working man and a real gentleman. His only buried his father Joe before Christmas and his youngest child was born only a short time after that. This is a tragic blow for the family and the entire area. There aren’t words really to described how people are feeling right now,” Mr Keating said.
Kilrush RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Pauline Dunleavy said: ‘This was one of the largest search and rescue operation in the Shannon Estuary for a number of years. I would like to commend the quick response from all agencies especially the members of the public that assisted.
On behalf of everyone at Kilrush RNLI Lifeboat Station, I wish to express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the man who sadly did not survive,” she added.