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 in Cork passed away 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 laid to rest on what would have been his 23rd birthday.
His inquest yesterday in Bandon courthouse in County Cork heard that the accident happened after an innocent day of fun with Conor’s group of lifelong friends. Death would have been almost immediate and Conor would not have suffered.
His mother Maura told the Opinion Line on Cork’s 96FM today that it doesn’t matter what red tape is involved, the blowhole needs to be closed off from the public.
“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.
"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. That fire pit (the boys gathered around) was already there. It is still there. People continue to go up there.
"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.”
Meanwhile, Maura 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 (Conor) at home the boys came in droves in and out. Everybody had a beautiful story to tell about his kindness.
Parents of Cork student who died in tragic incident praise friends who tried to save him https://t.co/eKxmyUyHEE— EchoLive.ie (@echolivecork) February 22, 2022
I was always in awe of my son. He was so kind. Now he had a love for the finer things in life like his fancy car and fancy clothes! I used to teach him that they were not important.
"He loved the sea. He surfed all day that day (the day) he died. They had a beautiful day that day. And 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.”
She said her hope is that Conor’s friends will “embrace the time they had with him” and look ahead to their futures. She paid tributes to her own beautiful friends who have “held” her through the grieving process.
"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.”
She added that she is thankful for the heroic effort of Conor’s friend, Gary, 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. He approached the blowhole from the water side and it was nearly midnight. He was going into dark sea. He 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. Gary found him, put him on a ledge and started CPR. He continued CPR for forty 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. He (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 that the “family feeling” among Conor’s friends is still incredible.
“I would hate and Conor would hate 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. I walk and I walk and I talk and I talk. I work three days a week in Cork Mental Health. My employers have been amazing.”
Conor was a biomedical engineering student at MTU and a lifeguard at Rochestown Park Hotel. He was held in the highest esteem in both places. Family and friends have raised around €30,000 for the emergency services and West Cork Rapid Response in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Maura is also involved on a volunteer basis with the designing of a remembrance garden dedicated to nine-year-old Beibhinn O’Connor from Riverstick, Co Cork who survived open-heart surgery but died during what was expected to be a routine operation. The garden in Carrigaline will be a place where the bereaved can go to remember their loved ones in a less formal setting.
Donations can be made to West Cork Rapid Response here.
Further information on the memorial garden can be obtained at www.theheartangel.ie.