Thursday 12 December 2019

A mother's plea in wake of tragic quarry deaths


Maria Pepper

The heartbroken mother of a Wexford teenager who drowned in a treacherous quarry lake at Forth Mountain in 2012 has appealed to young people not to swim in the area. Her plea follows a tragedy in Ennis, Co. Clare, last week, in which two 15-year-old boys died in similar circumstances.

Mary Murphy is horrifed that nothing has changed following the death six years ago of her beloved 19-year-old son Allen, who lost his life while swimming with friends at Carrigfoyle quarry, close to his Barntown home. She can't believe that people are still swimming there, despite the presence of council signs warning of the dangers.

The area is a magnet for youngsters on warm sunny days like the past weekend, when several people were observed swimming and cooling off in the lake.

Mary said that hearing about the Ennis tragedy in which two teenagers died in a disused quarry lake similar to the one in Forth Mountain has brought back the trauma of Allen’s death and her heart goes out to the boys’ families.

‘More than anyone, I know what they’re going through. My heart goes out to them. If I could offer them sympathy I would,’ she said.

‘I felt sick when I heard it. I couldn’t stop crying. It has brought everything back. It’s like I’m re-living it again,’ said Mary.

‘To see two other families going through it is a killer. When I heard the words “disused quarry” my heart sank. I was heartbroken for them.’

On learning of the Co. Clare drownings, many people in Wexford were reminded of the Carrigfoyle tragedy and some got in touch with Mary to offer their support and sympathy, understanding what she must be going through.

‘I got messages of support from people through Facebook, saying they were thinking of me,’ she said.

‘It’s been six years but it doesn’t get any easier. It’s getting harder every year. He would have been 25 on May 25. That day was very difficult for me as well. He had just turned 19 when he died on June 24 of that year,’ said Mary, adding that her eldest son Dara ‘misses Allen so much’.

The Wexford mother said she lives in fear of another tragedy happening in the Carrigfoyle lake. ‘I listen to the news. I’m just waiting for someone else to drown up there. Whenever I hear the helicopter going up there, I’m thinking the worst, that it’s after happening again.’

The drowning accident happened on a Sunday evening but Allen’s body wasn’t recovered from the water by emergency crews until the following morning. His mother sat on the shore all night with other family members, waiting for him to be found. ‘I couldn’t leave him,’ she said.

She has never set foot in the quarry since that day but she is aware that young people are still swimming there and diving off rocks.

‘I’ve never been back since June 24, 2012. I don’t even drive up that road. Maybe some day I will be able to.

Warning people not to swim in the lake, she said: ‘I lost my son and I don’t want anyone else to go through that.’

‘It’s a lovely place with fantastic views but the water is so deep and so dangerous. I went there myself as a child.’

It upsets her that there is no tribute or plaque on forth Mountain to say that Allen died there. ‘It’s like he never existed. I think he deserves to be remembered,’ she said.

‘The way I was made to feel after he died. I was a single mother. I was a nobody. He was a nobody.’

Wexford People

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