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Open verdict into death of Clare Island fisherman

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Open verdict into death of Clare Island fisherman


An open verdict has been returned into the death of a Clare Island fisherman who drowned in waters close to the island last August.
Martin Burns (66) of Gurteen, Clare Island left his house at 10.20am on August 14 to go fishing but never came home.
His widow, Nora, told the inquest that she saw him in his boat between 11.30am and 11.45am and it was the last time she saw him alive.
She said he would have gone around the island with lobster pots and fishing for mackerel. She thought she saw him coming in with another fisherman, Michael Gallagher, at 4.30pm but got concerned when she rang Martin’s phone and got no answer and when she rang Mr Gallagher who said it was another fisherman that was with him and not Martin.
She got in touch with her brother Pat O’Toole at 6.45pm who checked the pier and found that Martin’s boat was not in.
Pat O’Toole and a ferry operator, Brian O’Grady, and two more men went out on a rib boat to look for Martin Burns. They found the petrol tank from his outboard engine about half a mile from the island pier and found lobster pots and Martin’s currach upside down and badly broken up near the shoreline at Bachelor Island.
They went back to where the petrol tank was and found Martin Burns’ body face up floating in the water with his life jacket on. They checked for a pulse and found none and, the inquest was told, they knew he was dead.
Pathologist Tamas Nemeth told the inquest the cause of death was asphyxia due to drowning.
Coroner John O’Dwyer recorded an open verdict, saying the matter ‘appears to be a mystery’. He said there was no indication as to how Mr Burns got into the water, adding that it was a calm day and added that Mr Burns was ‘prudently’ wearing a lifejacket. He extended sympathy to the family of Martin Burns as did Inspector Joe McKenna on behalf of An Garda Siochana.