Belfast Telegraph

Families’ plea to coroner after four deaths in quarry lake

By Catherine Lynagh

A coroner has called for a province-wide debate into the dangers of quarries following the drowning of four men at one site.

Joanne Donnelly made the direction at an Armagh inquest into the death of Brendan Bell (20) who died while swimming last April at Navan Quarry.

Mr Bell is the fourth person to drown at the quarry since 1996.

The first victim was father of three Roy McGinley who drowned in June 1996, Christopher Connolly the second victim died in May 2000 and John Basketfield, the third victim died in the quarry in February 2005.

In a joint letter to the Coroner the families of the drowned said it is only a matter of time before someone else dies in the Armagh quarry lake.

The families want the quarry to be completely fenced and drained or filled in.

At Armagh courthouse the inquest heard that Brendan Bell of Mullacreevie Park, Armagh, died after trying to swim across the 10 acre-wide lake on April 10 last year.

Despite the hot temperature of the day, the water was icy cold and Mr Bell got into difficulties.

His friends tried to save him, but they too got into trouble and couldn’t rescue their friend.

Mr Bell’s body was found 12 metres below the surface after an extensive search of the lake.

During the inquest, quarry owner Jeremy Acheson said he had recently met with Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy to discuss safety issues at the site.

He said: “This is a problem not of our making. We are not allowed to develop the site; it is to stay in its natural state.”

Coroner Donnelly said she would write to Armagh and City District Council, the quarry owners, the Quarry Products Association, Minister for Regional Development and the Minister for Education.

She said: “I hope these organisations will work together to raise awareness of the dangers of quarries. There have been four deaths at this quarry since 1996, but this situation is not unique to this particular quarry.”

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