Father who died trying to save son from drowning in kayaking accident described as ‘hero’
A father who died trying to save his son from drowning after their kayak capsized on the River Barrow in Athy last year has been described as a hero during his inquest.
Kildare Coroner’s Court hearing heard Declan Reid disappear into the fast-flowing river after successfully passing his then nine-year-old son Aaron to a lifeguard during the tragic incident on February 28, 2021.
Garda Padraig Minnock of Athy Warden Station described how a seven-day multi-agency search was carried out along a long stretch of the River Barrow before Mr Reid’s body was found finally discovered on the afternoon of March 6 last year about 40 meters from where he was seen. entering the water.
Declan (34) a plumber from Moorefield Drive, Neilstown, Co Dublin had gone with his pregnant partner, Fiona Hanratty and son, Aaron, to Athy to visit his father, Paul Reid over what the inquest heard was “a glorious day”.
A young man who was sitting on a wooden pontoon by the river with friends described how he went to the aid of a man and a boy after seeing them capsize.
Scott McQuaid (24) told the inquest he saw father and son playing in their kayak on the river before he heard Declan scream for help.
Mr McQuaid, who has been trained in lifesaving, said Declan managed to hold Aaron out of the water but he was struggling.
He said Aaron managed to jump on him and they headed for the nearest shore.
As the river was flowing fast and the water was cold, Mr McQuaid said it took 10 minutes to reach safety.
The deceased’s father recalled how his son and grandson kayaked up and down the river for about 20 minutes and “played bumpers” with the bank.
Mr Reid told the inquest how he advised Declan to be sure to hold Aaron if they fell from the kayak because he observed the water level in the river was higher than normal.
“I was half kidding but still serious,” Mr. Reid said.
Weeping on the witness stand, he described how his son grew up living by the River Barrow and would have been on the water every day as a youngster.
“He would have been very comfortable in the water in kayaks and boats. He would have been an avid swimmer and able to look after himself in the water,” Mr Reid said.
The inquest heard that Declan was also extremely fit and spent around two hours in a gym every day before work.
Mr Reid said he had not seen his son for around a month due to Covid-19, but recalled his son was very happy with his life and work.
He told the hearing that he did not see Declan and Aaron fall in the water but heard a splash.
Mr Reid said he jumped into the water because he could see his son drifting in the river.
However, he said he got out of the water in less than two minutes as visibility below the surface was “almost non-existent”.
The inquest heard that neither Declan nor Aaron wore personal flotation devices, while the deceased wore work clothes and boots.
Mr Reid’s partner Fiona Hanratty described how they decided to go to Athy because Declan feared his father would feel lonely because of a poem he had posted on social media.
Ms Hanratty recalled Declan asking her son if he wanted to go kayaking and Aaron initially said ‘no’.
She said she also expressed her concern to Declan’s father about the strong current in the river, but he replied that it was fine because his son was a good swimmer.
Ms Hanratty said she heard screams and Aaron screaming that he was frozen as Declan held him up while floating on his back.
Speaking to Aaron, Ms Hanratty said she believed they capsized while Declan used a paddle to push the kayak away from the shore.
Ms Hanratty said her partner was in great shape that day and they had talked about getting a mortgage and settling in together.
The inquest heard Ms Hanratty gave birth to the couple’s son, Hunter, less than three months after her partner’s death.
“Hunter allows me to continue. This is what her father would want,” she said.
Commenting on the evidence, County Kildare Coroner Denis Cusack remarked: ‘It is clear to me that there were a number of heroes.
He said Mr McQuaid was ‘most certainly a true hero in putting his own life on the line’.
The coroner said the young man’s actions to save Mr Reid’s son were ‘heroic, courageous and extraordinarily commendable’.
Prof Cusack said it was heartening to still see such instinctive bravery in a community where people were trying to help each other.
He expressed his condolences to Mr. Reid’s family for such a tragic and unexpected death.
“It was an exciting and wonderful day for a father and son to be together and no one expected something like this to happen,” the coroner said.
Emphasizing that he was in no way blaming Mr Reid, Prof Cusack said he would be remiss if he did not use the survey to remind people of the importance of wearing personal flotation devices when they come out on the water.
Based on an autopsy showing that Mr Reid had died from drowning, the coroner returned a verdict of death by misadventure.
Speaking after the hearing, Declan’s uncle, Gerard Reid, said: “Declan was a wonderful boy. His death was a tragedy but it could have been worse because my brother, Paul, is not a good swimmer, while we owe Aaron’s life to the young man who saved him.
Mr Reid’s family have also raised €5,200 so far through a GoFundMe campaign in memory of Declan to raise money to train people in lifesaving skills.
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