'I didnít want my children to lose two parents'
Tuesday, 20 August 2013
THE wife of a south Down man who died trying to save a drowning teenager has told an inquest how she swam to the aid of her husband but was forced back by the coldness of the water.
Colin Polland, 39, and 15-year-old Kevin O'Hare died after getting into difficulties in a disused quarry near Annalong on June 1 this year.
At Tuesday's inquest into the tragedy, Adele Polland explained how she swam into the quarry after her husband disappeared beneath the surface.
“I was unable to get deep enough to save him," said the mum-of-two, who said she was then forced to swim back to land because the coldness was starting to overcome her.
“I made the decision that I did not want my children to lose two parents."
Mrs Polland and her husband were alerted by Kevin's brother Liam that the teenager was in difficulty in the quarry.
The inquest heard that Kevin, Liam and their cousin Philip McGrillen visited the quarry for a swim "in the spur-of-the-moment" on their return from a day out in Newcastle.
Mr McGrillen, 24, dived into the quarry first and was climbing out he when his younger cousin jumped in.
He said when Kevin - a talented footballer and popular teenager from Dromara - resurfaced to the water "he was panicking big time".
Mr McGrillen dived back in the water to try and help Kevin while Liam ran off to raise the alarm and met Mr Polland and his wife - who were holidaying in Northern Ireland at the time - at their rented cottage.
Mrs Polland said her husband reached the water first and dived in and she watched on from the top of the quarry as he tried to save Kevin.
Mr Polland also got into difficulty in the water before going beneath the surface, the inquest heard.
Mrs Polland then jumped into the water after her husband and said she could "see him below the water".
She added: "I tried to reach down with my feet but I couldn't reach Colin. I couldn't dive so I couldn't reach Colin."
Describing the debilitating effects of the cold water, Mrs Polland added: "I felt a lot of pressure around my lungs, I felt myself starting to have difficulty breathing. It happened very quickly when I got to the deep, coldest part of the water."
Coroner Leckey assured Mrs Pollland that she made the right decision to swim back to land, adding: "If you hadn't got out of the water, this would be an inquest into a triple drowning tragedy, I have no doubt about that."
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Alastair Bentley said the coldness of the water would have played a "significant factor" in the double tragedy. Summarizing, Senior Coroner John Leckey confirmed that both victims died from drowning, noting that the coldness of the water would have impaired their ability to swim.
He also recommended that Mr Polland, who was from South Down but had been living in England, should be recognized for his bravery.
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