Community in shock as hero garda Dave dies in freak diving accident
Humble family man, who saved nine people during his short life, died doing what he loved. His legacy lives on for his heartbroken family
Hero Garda David (Dave) Hearne, who died while scuba diving off of Hook Head on Saturday, will be laid to rest today (Tuesday) in Duncannon.
Formerly of Innyard, Fethard-on-Sea, and Johnshill, Waterford, Dave is survived by his heartbroken wife Barbara; children Dylan, Toby, Noah and Libby; parents Declan and Gemma and sisters Bríd and Maeve and brother Declan.
Dave (47) was diving with Hook Sub Aqua Club off of Hook Head on Saturday when the tragedy occurred. He was immediately assisted by dive colleagues and the Irish Coast Guard helicopter raced to the scene to assist in his transfer to hospital.
Rescue R117 had been airborne, with a number of RNLI lifeboats active in the area, as part of the search operation for missing Kilmore man Dom Sinnott. Tragically, despite frantic attempts to stabilise his condition, Dave was pronounced dead before he could be transferred to University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and a special decompression unit.
Gardaí in Waterford and Wexford have expressed shock at the tragedy and the death of a hugely respected colleague.
'The entire force is in shock,' one Garda involved in search and rescue operations said.
'He was the nicest guy you could ever work alongside. He has received numerous awards over the years for his commitment to life saving.'
Tributes to Dave were led by Irish Bravery Awards Council (IBAC) chairman Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD who noted that the young garda followed in the brave footsteps of his father who was also honoured for his courage in 1958.
Dave's mother Gemma said the family are still trying to come to terms with Dave's death.
'He was a beautiful fellow; so unassuming and so talented.'
Dave attended Poulfur NS before going on De La Salle secondary school and Coláiste na Ring.
He met the love of his life Barbara Molloy in his teens and they were married in the Star of the Sea Church in Duncannon in 2004. They had four children: Dylan (13), Toby (11), Noah (9) and Libby (7).
Gemma said like most parents these days both Dave and Barbara were very busy, but they always made time for themselves, be it through going to a gig or to a musical; music being the constant passion in Dave's life, along with diving. Dave had travelled near and far to dive and had descended beneath 200ft.
He had a talent for music from a young age and loved playing the organ, piano and guitar. A laid back youth, he studied Leisure & Recreation in Dublin and worked as a lifeguard.
Dave went to Templemore to become a guard in 1994 and never looked back. He was initially stationed with the Santry underwater unit, before being moved to Cahir in Co Tipperary and then to Ballybricken station in Waterford where he was a hugely popular figure and was even on a first name basis with many of the city's criminals, who respected him. He worked with the traffic corps for many years and would on occasion all home to Fethard for some dinner, when he had time to catch the ferry over from Passage East.
Dave was utterly dedicated to Barbara and the children. Gemma said: 'He was a quiet, funny, unassuming man and our little God as our first child died of cot death at only six month's old. He was the son of the Coastgaurd manager for the area and grew up with a VHF kit and radio in the family kitchen.'
Both Gemma and Declan asked Dave repeatedly to stop diving, but his answer was always that he was happiest when he was under the water.
'He died doing something he loved. It was definitely not out of neglect or anything. He was always absolutely diligent when it came to safety and he made sure everyone in the club was when they were going out on their boats.'
She said the family still don't know what happened to Dave. 'It doesn't seem like he had a heart attack or that there was a clot. The Navy and the guards have taken the equipment and they will get to the bottom of it.'
The Hearne family have been overwhelmed by the love and support they have been shown by colleagues, friends and neighbours of Dave's since word filtered out on Saturday afternoon that he had died. 'We are shocked. We never realised he was such a popular guy. He was always playing practical jokes. He was just so liked. His colleagues said they could come in in a bad humour and Dave would come around the corner and start talking and have them laughing and with a smile on their face. He had a great perspective on life and remained laid back. He was quiet, funny and unassuming but he didn't know a clock existed. We are just in bits. Declan lost his brother on the Naomh Seosamh in 1957 and two brothers off the coast.'
She recalled the family Christmas tradition of her meeting Dave at the ferry with a fish box stuffed with turkey and all the trimmings for Barbara and him to cook at their home.
Gemma said the family will be there to support Barbara who she described as wonderful mother.
'We are going to miss him dreadfully. He was an extraordinary character. He saved nine people's lives and received awards but he was so unassuming. We have lost a lovely fella.'
Tributes have been paid by Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, TD, Chair of the Bravery Awards Council and the Garda Representative Association, who expressed their heartfelt sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of Dave and another garda, John McCallion who died last weekend. 'The Garda Siochána have lost two great members who were inspirational colleagues to everyone in the organisation and great friends to many members. The passing of both men is all the more tragic considering they leave behind seven children between them.'.
Dave's funeral Mass is at Our Lady Star of the Sea church, Duncannon, at 2 p.m., with his burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.