The inquest into the deaths of a father and son during a fishing trip in June 2020 has heard that the man’s other son had tried to save them.
53-year-old Jonathon Christian and his 17-year-old son Jacob had travelled from the Isle of Man to Lough Keel in Donegal, along with 15-year-old Benjamin.
A deposition from Benjamin was read into the record at the inquest, which opened at Letterkenny courthouse today.
It outlined how their bait box had fallen into the water and Jacob tried to swim after it. When the ripple pushed the box further out Jonathon called to his son to come back.
“Jacob tried, but he couldn’t swim back in,” Benjamin said in his deposition.
After initially trying to throw a life ring to Jacob, Benjamin and Jonathon both jumped into the water to try and bring Jacob to safety.
“I started to go down and dad helped me back onto the rocks,” Benjamin said.
“I looked back out and both were gone.”
Declan Foley, who looks after the pump house at Lough Keel, told the inquest how he saw Benjamin sitting on the rocks with his head down, wearing no top, shoes or socks.
Mr Foley said the boy was crying and asked him for help. He told Mr Foley: “I couldn’t save them. I couldn’t save them. They went under.”
Detective Garda John Madigan, a scenes of crime investigator, said the water just beyond the rocks was around six-feet deep. Beyond this point, the depth would be much greater, the inquest heard.
Roisin McBride, the officer in charge at Mulroy Coast Guard, said she received a call at 2.56pm from the Marine Rescue sub centre at Malin Head requesting assistance after two people were reported to have entered the water.
Ms McBride arrived at 3.16pm and a boat was launched at 3.26pm. Four teams of two combed the shoreline to assist in the search, while the 118 rescue helicopter arrived soon after.
At 3.59pm, the body of Jonathon Christian was brought ashore, while the body of Jacob Christian was located at 6.38pm.
Pathologist Dr Gerry O’Dowd performed post mortems at Letterkenny University Hospital and concluded that death was due to drowning.
Toxicology tests showed both father and son tested negative for the presence of alcohol and drugs.
The inquest was adjourned by the Donegal Coroner, Dr McCauley, until 19 April, 2023 to enable further investigations into Jonathon Christian’s recent medical history and the circumstances by which he arrived in Donegal.
The coroner had been told that they left the Isle of Man on 6 June and were staying at a house in Ballyheerin, Kilmacrennan.
Mr Christian had bought a Nissan Micra after another car broke down in England. The trip to Lough Keel on 18 June was the first time they had gone fishing since arriving in Donegal.