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Accomplished swimmer drowned during early morning swim in Dublin Bay, inquest hears

The inquest heard Dr Holly Delaney-Rice was a regular swimmer and a gifted athlete who had run several New York marathons.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A HIGHLY ACCOMPLISHED and competent swimmer and triathlete drowned while going for an early morning swim at a popular bathing spot in Dublin Bay last year, an inquest has heard.

A sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court heard Dr Holly Delaney-Rice, a 42-year-old mother of two, died while going for a pre-dawn swim at the Half Moon swimming club located on the Great South Wall near Poolbeg Lighthouse on 11 August 2021.

A witness, who alerted gardaí after becoming concerned at finding the victim’s sports bag, dry robe and shoes on the Great South Wall with no sign of any swimmer, said he would not have got in the water as it was “so choppy”.

The inquest heard Dr Delaney-Rice, a native of Sandycove, Co Dublin and worked as a radiologist at Tallaght University Hospital, was a regular swimmer and a gifted athlete who had run several New York marathons.

Dr Delaney-Rice’s husband, Fergal, said he had last seen his wife the evening before her death when she came home from work.

Mr Rice said Holly had slept in an upstairs bedroom with the couple’s two young children as she loved to put them asleep after a long day’s work.

He told the inquest that there was nothing out of the ordinary about her behaviour,

“She was very happy and upbeat and loved being with the kids. It was just a normal day,” he added.

Mr Rice said he did not see his wife the following morning when he woke around 8.15am but there was nothing unusual about her going for an early morning swim,

The inquest heard Dr Delaney-Rice had gone from the family home on Serpentine Avenue in Sandymount to the Great South Wall where CCTV footage showed her parking her car at 4.53am.

In a written statement, Shane O’Mahony who was walking out to the Poolbeg Lighthouse, described how he became concerned after noticing a bag and clothing at the Half Moon Swimming Club when there was no sign of anyone in the water.

O’Mahony said he continued his journey out to the lighthouse but found the contents were still there on his return.

He said he alerted gardaí and checked the contents of the bag and found car keys which he established were for a Volkswagen car parked nearby which enabled the missing swimmer to be identified.

O’Mahony said he was a regular sea swimmer but he would not have got in the water that morning as the sea was so choppy.

Graham Charles, a volunteer with the Irish Coast Guard, said the alarm had been raised at 7.30am and Dr Delaney-Rice’s body was found close to rocks on the Great South Wall by a RNLI lifeboat at 10.36am around 30 metres from where she was believed to have got into the water.

The inquest heard there were no signs of life after the body was removed from the water and Dr Delaney-Rice was pronounced dead at 11.44am.

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The coroner, Aisling Gannon, said medical reports from the victim’s GP showed she had no underlying medical conditions.

“She was exceptionally fit and healthy. It was normal for her to undertake significant exercise,” the coroner observed.

Gannon said a post-mortem found a low level of alcohol in the victim’s body as well as traces of antihistamine and sleeping tablets but they were not a contributory factor in her death.

The coroner said the results of the post-mortem confirmed that Dr Delaney-Rice had died as a result of drowning.

Based on the evidence she recorded a narrative verdict which noted there were no other contributory factors that caused her death.

Offering condolences to Dr Delaney-Rice’s family, the coroner said her sudden and unexpected death must have been “a horrific experience” for them.

About the author:

Seán McCárthaigh

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