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Liffey tragedy Inquest hears lifebuoy was missing at spot where man (34) fell into River Liffey

The victim’s mother broke down in the witness box as the inquest heard how a PSNI officer called to her house to inform her that her son had died

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Daniel Cullen died after falling into the River Liffey at Sir John Rogersons Quay in Dublin

Daniel Cullen died after falling into the River Liffey at Sir John Rogersons Quay in Dublin

Daniel Cullen died after falling into the River Liffey at Sir John Rogersons Quay in Dublin

A lifebuoy was missing from its stand when rescuers attempted to help a Tyrone man who fell into the River Liffey while on his way home from an evening socialising in Dublin last year, an inquest has heard. 

A sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court was told that Daniel Cullen died after falling into the Liffey at Sir John Rogerson Quay shortly before midnight on June 8, 2021.

Mr Cullen (34) a former civil servant of Oaks Road, Dungannon, Co Tyrone had been commuting to Dublin on a regular basis before his death to pursue an acting career.

Brian Davison, who had been socialising with Daniel, said they and another friend, called Jake, had stopped near the Diving Bell on the quays to urinate while on their way home.

Mr Davison said he had only met Daniel for the first time earlier that evening as a “friend of a friend” in a group which had been drinking beer in St Stephen’s Green and subsequently Grand Canal Square.

He told the inquest that nobody in the group had taken drugs and were only consuming alcohol.

Mr Davison said he turned away from the water’s edge before he heard his other friend cry out that Daniel was after falling in the river.

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The family of Daniel Cullen at the point on Sir John Rogerson's Quay where Daniel lost his life (Ryan Cullen, brother, Aoife McKeone, cousin, Mary Cullen, mother, Colum Donaghy, uncle and Marty Cullen, uncle. PHOTO: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The family of Daniel Cullen at the point on Sir John Rogerson's Quay where Daniel lost his life (Ryan Cullen, brother, Aoife McKeone, cousin, Mary Cullen, mother, Colum Donaghy, uncle and Marty Cullen, uncle. PHOTO: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The family of Daniel Cullen at the point on Sir John Rogerson's Quay where Daniel lost his life (Ryan Cullen, brother, Aoife McKeone, cousin, Mary Cullen, mother, Colum Donaghy, uncle and Marty Cullen, uncle. PHOTO: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

He described running along the river for about 50 metres to where he knew there was a lifebuoy stand but said the equipment was missing.

Mr Davison said he contemplated getting into the water and had stripped down to his underwear but then decided it was “not a great idea” as he was not a strong swimmer.

He recalled taking off his belt to see if it could reach Daniel before he gave it to a female passer-by who tried looping a couple of belts together.

While Daniel had attempted to grab hold of the belts as he was trying to stay afloat, Mr Davison said he saw him disappear under the water a short time later.

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In the hours before the tragic incident, Mr Davidson said Daniel had been in very good humour with the group who had been drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and singing songs.

“Everyone was having a really good time,” he recalled.

A youth who came upon the scene, Cian Barr, said he had run further along the quay towards the docklands to get another lifebuoy but Daniel was unable to grab hold of it.

He estimated that Daniel had been in the water for 10-15 minutes before he disappeared below the surface.

The inquest heard that a Dublin Fire Brigade crew had launched a boat on the river to try and find the casualty, while the Irish Coast Guard helicopter, Garda Air Support Unit and RNLI lifeboat from Dún Laoghaire were also deployed to the scene.

Garda David Walsh of Pearse Street Garda station said the search for Daniel was called off at around 4.30am and resumed later that morning when his body was found on the river bed by a member of the Garda Water Unit at 9.57am.

He was formally pronounced dead at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club where his body was brought ashore.

Garda Walsh said Daniel was identified from a bank card and blood donor card which established his home address with the assistance of Interpol and the PSNI.

He said it was subsequently established that Daniel had been staying at the My Place Hotel on Gardiner Street from where his belongings were retrieved.

Garda Walsh said the scene of the accident was an open quay with no railings or wall to prevent someone falling into the river.

He said CCTV footage captured the victim and his friends walking near Sir John Rogerson Quay just seconds before the tragedy.

While the images showed that the men had been drinking, Garda Walsh said there was no sign of anyone being “heavily intoxicated”.

The victim’s mother, Mary Cullen, broke down in the witness box as the inquest heard how a PSNI officer called to her house three days after the tragic incident to inform her that her son had died in Dublin and she would need to identify his body at the Dublin City Morgue.

In response to a question from the coroner, Clare Keane, Ms Cullen replied that her son was not a great swimmer.

Dr Keane adjourned the inquest after learning the family’s solicitor was unable to attend the hearing, while Mr Cullen’s relatives had also sought additional information about aspects of the case.

Outside the hearing, Daniel’s uncle, Martin Cullen, said the family were concerned about the missing lifebuoy, while they also wondered why public toilets were not available at a time when pubs were only allowed to serve take-away pints because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The family later gathered at the location where Daniel fell into the water at Sir John Rogerson Quay for a short memorial service.

They noted that a lifebuoy was still missing from the stand nearest to the spot where the tragedy occurred.

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