An open verdict has been recorded at the inquest into the death of popular Westport man Owen Hughes (57) of Quay Road, Westport.
Mr Hughes’s body was found in the water near Westport Harbour in the early hours of June 25 last. The medical cause of death was given as drowning.
Coroner for Mayo South John O’Dwyer was told that on June 23, Gardaí discovered a black bag at The Point, Westport, which contained clothes, a mobile phone and house keys. The phone was locked with a security code, and there was nothing to identify the owner of the bag.
The following day, June 24, Joan O’Gara, a sister of Owen Hughes, rang Westport Garda Station voicing concerns that she could not contact Owen on his mobile. She confirmed the mobile found at the Point was her brother’s. Gardaí subsequently gained access to his house using the set of keys found at the Point.
A search-and-rescue helicopter from Sligo was despatched to the scene, along with the local Coast Guard, but to no avail. However the Gardaí received a call from local fisherman Arthur Gill at 5am on June 25 to say he had discovered a body in the water at Rosbeg, Westport.
Arthur Gill told the inquest in Castlebar that he was in a punt boat on the morning in question when he discovered a body in shallow water southwest of the Point at Westport Quay. The body, which was clothed in swimming togs, a white swimming cap, swimming goggles and blue ear plugs, was later identified as Owen Hughes.
Joan O’Gara told the court that her brother was a ‘highly accomplished swimmer’. Mr Hughes had often swum distances of 12km, he had taken part in a cross-channel relay and he had just put his name down for a cross-channel solo run.
She said that while her brother did suffer from depression, he was in good health mentally. She said that he had returned from a trip to China, where he had lost four stone, and that he wasn’t in the best of physical health. She said that he had only returned to open water swimming recently and that this needed to be borne in mind.
Dr Tamas Nemth, Pathologist, said that the death was a result of drowning and put the date of death as June 23.
Recording an open verdict, Coroner John O’Dwyer said there was a lot of information missing as nothing indicated what caused him to drown and the evidence before him only allowed for an open verdict. Both he and Inspector Joe McKenna extended their sympathies to the Hughes family.