Two men died on Saturday after a man basket suspended from a loader crane dropped into the river Shannon, in Limerick, Ireland.
Three men working for an unnamed sub-contractor were carrying out repairs to the Thomond Bridge from a man basket slung from the hook of a Palfinger articulated loader crane, owned by local company Cussen Crane Hire, when something broke, dropping the platform into the water. Local reports suggest that it was the hoist cable – the crane was fitted with a boom mounted winch and was working over a single sheave attachment.
All three were wearing life jackets as well as harnesses and lanyards, after the platform sunk into the water, one of them managed to unclip or cut his harness and float to the surface where he was quickly rescued. It is understood that the other two -one in his 20s and one in his 40s - floated to within a metre of the surface but were unable to disconnect themselves from the submerged platform.
Emergency services were quick to attend the incident and rapidly freed the two men, but were unable to revive them. They were declared dead on arrival at the hospital. A statement, the local authority, which is responsible for the bridge, said that it is working with an investigation being conducted by the gardaí (police) and the Health and Safety Authority.
The basket was recovered from the river and sent off for inspection along with the truck and crane.
This tragic incident was totally avoidable had a thorough risk assessment been carried out and attention paid to good practice guidance from organisations such as IPAF and others. When working over water a harness and lanyard should never be worn, unless a risk assessment indicates that it makes sense and then not combined with a life jacket.
Sadly if these men had not worn a harness they would be alive and well today. One cannot help but also wonder if had they been wearing a shorter lanyard they might have been able to have reached the carabineer and freed themselves??
This is not the time perhaps for us to be overly critical, but it is hard to understand what they or whoever was responsible for attaching the harnesses to the platform was thinking. Our thoughts go out to the families of the men involved.
The men have now been named as, TJ O’Herlihy, 36, and Bryan Whelan, 29, while the man that managed to escape was Paul Murphy, 26.