Inquest into diving tragedy off Hook Head

By Dan Walsh

Tragic circumstances of how off-duty Garda David ‘Dave’ Hearne lost his life in a diving tragedy about 20kms off Hook Head, were recalled at an inquest, where the coroner returned a verdict of “death by drowning”. Sympathy was expressed to his family on their tragic loss.

Mr. Hearne was an experienced and accomplished technical diver,  a former member of the Garda Water Unit, and a member of the Hook Sub Aqua Club who organised a ‘dive on’ from Slade Harbour to a shipwreck off the Wexford coast on May 25th 2019.


Mr Hearne was found by diving companions near the seabed, unresponsive and with his breathing mouthpiece displaced.

Desperate efforts to revive him failed. He was removed by the Coast Guard R117 helicopter personnel to University Hospital Waterford. The naval vessel LE Orla was also sent to the scene.

A post-mortem examination was conducted at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) by pathologist Dr Fergus McSweeney.

At the inquest, the Coroner, Gerard O’Herlihy, said that death was by drowning. “Something went wrong down below, and it appears to have been a spike in oxygen, for whatever reason. It seems that the late Mr Hearne was not able to deal with that spike, it had caused him to go into a convulsion, the mouthpiece went out of his mouth.”

The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the Coroner’s statement.

Back in 2014, Waterford Marine Search and Rescue presented Garda Hearne with a new PFD (personal floating device) after he had rescued three people from the River Suir and the Colligan River in Dungarvan in the previous years.
Dave trained to be a Garda at Templemore in 1994 and was initially with the Santry Underwater Unit, was later transferred to Cahir, Tipperary, and in recent times was based in Waterford Garda Station at Ballybricken.

From Innyard, Fethard-on-Sea Dave Hearne, 47, lived at Upper Grange Road in Waterford city with his wife Barbara and their children Dylan, Toby, Noah, and Libby. He was son of Declan and Gemma and brother of Bríd, Maeve and Declan and other loving family, relatives, and legion of friends.

He was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery following Requiem Mass in the Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Duncannon. R.I.P.

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