Subscribe Now

Fill in disused quarries say drowned teenager's parents

Published 22/07/2013

Brendan Hughes




THE parents of a 15-year-old drowning victim have called for disused quarries across the north to be drained and covered up to prevent more deaths.

Teenager Kevin O'Hare and 39-year-old Colin Polland died after the young GAA player got into trouble at an old quarry between Newcastle and Annalong in Co Down last month.

Mr Polland, a married father-of-two, drowned trying to save Kevin from the deep water off Glassdrumman Road.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the tragedy, Kevin's mother Donna urged authorities to do more to prevent further deaths.

She raised concerns over a new government campaign to highlight the dangers of quarries, saying warning signs "won't make any difference".

Mrs O'Hare, from near Dromara, said that when her husband Eugene visited the quarry with family members days after Kevin had died, they came across youngsters still swimming in its dangerous waters.

Paying tribute to her son, she told The Irish News: "Kevin was any parent's dream. He was the most caring, thoughtful, kind-hearted son.

"He was a fantastic Gaelic footballer and was very loving to his grandparents.

"Our lives and our hearts are broken into a million pieces.

"They have to do something. All the quarries, they have to be closed.

"If it's not done it's going to happen again. They have to act on it."

Dromara GAC player Kevin, the youngest of four boys, was enjoying a sunny Saturday with his brother and cousin when the tragedy happened on June 1 at about 6pm.

Mr Polland, who was originally from Newcastle in Co Down but lived in London, made a rescue bid after Kevin's relatives had run for help.

The former granite quarry, which is close to Spence Mountain, is popular with young people on hot days.

Mrs O'Hare said her husband had visited it with other relatives just days after the tragedy.

"They all went up and there were people swimming in it," she said.

"They were angry and shocked because it didn't seem to matter what had happened.

"They did get out and give them 10 minutes to themselves but they got back in again.

"It didn't make any difference. They told them that people lost their lives but it didn't seem to matter."

Earlier this month outgoing environment minister Alex Attwood announced a summer campaign to raise awareness of the hazards of disused quarries.

The scheme includes new signage at known dangerous locations and publicity through posters and social media to highlight the risks.

Mrs O'Hare (44) said Kevin might have paid attention to warning signs but other people might not take any notice.

"They will still get in. [The quarries] should be filled in completely,'' she said.

"There should be a plaque up there to remind people that people have lost their lives."

Kevin's father Eugene (46), who works for the Roads Service in Ban-bridge, welcomed the warning signs but also said quarries should be filled in.

"Some warning signs there would be a good job. It's better than nothing," the GAA referee said.

"If there had have been a sign up saying it's dangerous, I don't think Kevin would have gone in.

"It should be filled in at the end of the day but if they are not going to fill them in at least signs would be better than nothing."

Mrs O'Hare said her family were told the Co Down quarry where her son had died had been the scene of several other deaths.

"We are all completely devastated. If it had have been closed these lives would not have been lost," she said.

"There should have been some-thing done when the first person lost their life in that place."

Mrs O'Hare described Kevin, a pupil at St Malachy's High School in Castlewellan, as a young gentleman.

"He gave me a kiss every morning before going to school and he would come home and tell me about his day," she said.

"He was a great child. I miss my son's cuddles and affection.

"He was kind-hearted to everybody. He wouldn't walk past anybody in school without saying 'hello' and he was a fantastic footballer."

■ WARNING: Above, a warning sign has been erected at Paul's Quarry off Glasdrumman Road in Annalong, Co Down, after last month's deaths of Kevin O'Hare and Colin Polland but people have continued to swim in the disused quarry. Right, Kevin O'Hare plays Gaelic football for an East Down under-14 side against South Down

PICTURE ABOVE: Bill Smyth

■ RESCUE ATTEMPT: Colin Polland (39) died when he tried to save the drowning teenager Kevin O'Hare