Mother of student killed following blowhole tragedy renews calls for protective fencing

ireland
Mother Of Student Killed Following Blowhole Tragedy Renews Calls For Protective Fencing Mother Of Student Killed Following Blowhole Tragedy Renews Calls For Protective Fencing
Conor King died after falling down a blowhole while camping with friends near Garretstown beach in Co Cork.
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Olivia Kelleher

A woman whose son fell 60 feet to his death down a blowhole while camping with friends near Garretstown beach in Co Cork has asked that the area where the accident occurred be closed off to prevent another tragedy from occurring.

Conor King (22) from Douglas, Cork died on April 24th, 2021 at around 11.30pm after he failed to realise he was so close to the blowhole and fell in. He was buried on what would have been his 23rd birthday.

His inquest on Tuesday heard the accident happened after an innocent day of fun with Conor’s group of friends. Death would have been almost immediate and Conor would not have suffered, the inquest heard.

His mother, Maura told the Opinion Line on Cork’s 96FM on Wednesday that it does not matter what red tape is involved, the area surrounding the blowhole needs to be closed off from the public.

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"I go up there (to the blowhole) on occasion. I had to go up there the first time on my hands and knees because I have always been afraid of heights and with the awfulness that my son fell from that height.

"I went up there on my hands and knees because I felt so insecure up there," Ms King said.

"Cllr Seamus McGrath has been on to the council (about closing it off). He has been very helpful. The council said they don’t own it. Somebody else owns it.

"It is irrelevant who owns it. There is a responsibility to the people to protect them. The Coroner said it should be fenced off, and it is quite obviously a place that people go.

"I am not asking people to close the right of way but we need to protect the edge."

Precious son

Meanwhile, Ms King said she will treasure her memories of her precious, only son.

“He was loved because he was such fun and he was kind. When we waked him at home, the boys came in droves in and out. Everybody had a beautiful story to tell about his kindness.

"I was always in awe of my son. He was so kind.

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"He loved the sea. He surfed all day the day he died. They had a beautiful day that day. It was the end of Covid and the start of the summer. He and his friends had the most fun - they always seized the day."

Conor's mother said her hope is that his friends will “embrace the time they had with him” and look ahead to their futures. She paid tributes to her own friends who have “held” her through the grieving process.

“They come and cry with me and laugh with me. It is the understanding in grief that you can cry one second and laugh the next second. I never knew that. I never wanted to know.

"The friends that understand that are the ones that have helped me the most. There is a need to have fun in life. There is a need to continue your life.

"I am still alive and I still have gifts that other people haven’t."

Rescue efforts

She added she was thankful for the heroic effort of Conor’s friend, Gary Barrett, who swam into the blowhole in a bid to save him.

“What an incredible guy. He has cropped up in our lives so many times since. He is so kind to us all.

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"He approached the blowhole from the waterside and it was nearly midnight. He was going into dark sea and had to swim into the blowhole. The boys were shining their phones down 50ft for light.

"Conor got washed into another part of the blowhole and Gary found him, put him on a ledge and started CPR. He continued CPR for 40 minutes and every time a wave came in and washed over them, Gary would cradle Conor and continue on with CPR.

"When the Coastguard came down, he was still holding Conor. He didn’t want to let him go. The comfort that is to me that Conor’s friend did that in his last moments.

"[Gary] is such a humble boy. He doesn’t want to hear it, but he is an amazing boy. I have no doubt Conor would have done it for him."

She added the “family feeling” among Conor’s friends is still incredible.

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“I would hate, and Conor would hate, for this to mar anybody’s life. I am determined for it not to destroy my life. It is catastrophic what has happened to us, but yet we can have fun. It is what it is, and you just keep going.

"I swim a kilometre and a half a day with my swimming friends. I get so much comfort from the continuity of the sea. The constancy of it is comforting and grounding.

Since Conor's death, his family and friends have raised approximately €30,000 for the emergency services and West Cork Rapid Response.

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