Galway teens’ pals ‘screamed for help’ after tragic pier accident

A source said locals were alerted to the unfolding tragedy by the screams of teenage girls who were in the second car.

John Keenan and Christopher Stokes

Eavan MurrayIndependent.ie

Gardaí investigating the tragic deaths of three teenagers who drowned when their car slipped off a pier are set to speak to several witnesses.

The Sunday Worldunderstands that a second car travelled in convoy with the youths to the Menlo pier area in the early hours of Saturday.

A source said locals were alerted to the unfolding tragedy by the screams of teenage girls who were in the second car. It was the passengers of the second car who apparently alerted emergency services.

John Keenan (16), also known as John Sammon, and Wojciech Panek (17) died at the scene while Christopher Stokes (19) was taken to hospital in a critical condition but later died of his injuries.

Gardaí believe the car carrying the teens may have slipped off the edge of the pier and tipped on its roof, trapping the youngsters in a shallow narrow channel that runs alongside the pier.

11.2.23. The scene at Menlo Pier where three men lost their lives after the car they were in entered the water late on Friday night Saturday morning. Photo Andy Newman.

Local councillor Frank Fahy said the Menlo area and beyond have been left shocked by the tragedy.

“This is not something I ever envisaged happening here,” he said. “We have never had anything like this happen here in Menlo and I have lived here all my life.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened. It’s a horrific tragedy, one you wouldn’t wish on anyone.

“They drowned in two or three feet of water which makes it all the more harrowing. I want to offer my deepest condolences to their families.

“I lost my own brother to a drowning accident in 1983 and it never leaves you.”

John Keenan and Christopher Stokes lived in the Headford Road area of Galway city and both boys were remembered as “great, decent young lads”.

A female neighbour of John Keenan’s recalled his kindness to younger children.

“He was just a lovely lad and everyone liked him. He was always smiling and very friendly,” she said.

“He was very kind to younger kids and I always thought that was a great trait in him.

“Everyone is absolutely horrified by this. It’s just so shocking and my heart goes out to his family.

“They reared him well because he was a good lad.”

Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche, who is heading the investigation, said gardaí battled to save the three teenagers.

Boxing clubs across Connacht also paid tribute to the teenagers.

Both John and Christy were due to attend the Connacht Championship in Castlerea in Co Roscommon yesterday.

Locals laid flowers, lit candles and placed a picture next to Ballinfoyle church in Galway city where both boys worshipped with their families.

Mike Mongan, head coach at the Olympic Boxing Club, said: “The club is a sanctuary for these young boys. It keeps them on the straight and narrow and off the streets.

“We’re devastated this weekend but we have to look after the 12- and 13-year-olds and protect them.

“These boys and girls depend on us and we will be watching them even more now. We’re in such a cloud of grief.”

Galway Boxing county secretary Sean Clancy told RTÉ News: “The Olympic boxing club and management have been incredible this weekend.

“To be able to prepare their boxers and get them ready for championships and get them into the ring and kind of do it in a respectful way is a credit to everyone involved in the club.

“I know how good these coaches are in the Olympic to their boxers. How they hold themselves when there’s so much pain.

“The deaths of these young men is tragic. But somehow they keep going for the sake of all these young boxers.”

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