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Inquest into death of Finnish student finds ‘accidental death’

Inquest into death of Finnish student finds ‘accidental’ verdict

Anton McNulty

The inquest into the death of Markus Nieminen (23), who drowned in Achill on November 3 last, took place in Castlebar Court House last week. Mr Nieminen died when a large wave swept him into the sea along the Atlantic Drive at Cloughmore on Achill Island. He was a native of Lappeenranta in south eastern Finland and was an engineering student in the Waterford Institute of Technology Engineering.
The inquest heard that Mr Nieminen was in Achill with three fellow students who were touring Ireland during the mid-term break. The group were taking photographs and videos of the waves breaking against the rocks at the Achill beauty spot.
His best friend and fellow Finn, Olga Joensuu told the inquest that there appeared to be no danger when all of a sudden a ‘huge wave’ took Mr Nieminen into the water.
“Markus was taking pictures of the waves slapping against the rocks, he then asked me to take a picture of him on the rocks but then he went to rocks further out in the water. I then saw a huge wave coming and it took Markus into the water,” she said.
Ms Joensuu said she went to a nearby house to get a rope to try and help him but was unable to do so.
Vojtech Hrdinka, a Czech national who is also a WIT student, explained that they had stopped to take photographs of the scenery and were ready to leave when the accident occurred.
“We were just ready to go when Markus wanted one more picture. Markus walked onto some rocks and asked Olga to take a picture of him. Then all of a sudden a big wave came up and swept him away.”
The incident took place at 12.15pm and a major recovery operation involving the Achill Coast Guard, the Coast Guard helicopter, the local RNLI lifeboat and local divers was launched to locate Mr Nieminen. The body was soon located in the water but its recovery was hampered by high winds. It was another two days before the body was removed from the water.
Ray Hughes, Officer in Charge of the Achill Coast Guard, said it was one of the most frustrating recoveries he had ever taken part in and the lives of his team had been put in danger during the recovery attempts.
He explained that even on the calmest day, the sea can be ferocious along the Atlantic Drive and that people can get ‘caught’ by the waves coming onto rocks.
Dr Fadel Bennani, Consultant Pathologist explained that there were no signs of trauma on Mr Nieminen body and that his death was due to drowning.
Coroner for south Mayo, Mr John O’Dwyer recorded a verdict of accidental death and expressed his sympathy to Mr Nieminen’s family and his friends. He said he hoped that his death was not in vain and that lessons would be learned to ensure this does not happen again.
Inspector Joe McKenna said he had been in touch with Mr Nieminen’s parents through the Finnish Embassy and they wished to thank the emergency services and the Achill community for all they did in recovering their son’s body.

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