‘Freak wave’ in diving tragedy

Rev Stewart Jones
Rev Stewart Jones

A Presbyterian clergyman who died while diving off the Co Donegal coast may have got into difficulties after being hit by a freak wave.

The Rev Stewart Jones, who was in his 50s, was airlifted to Sligo hospital on Saturday.

A qualified diving instructor, he was also an instructor in emergency first response. He was married to Patricia and leaves three adult daughters.

A Garda spokesman said the accident happened at St John’s Point in the Dunkineeny area.

“Divers were in difficulty and the coastguard went to assist,” a spokesman said.

“A man taken from the water was taken to Sligo General Hospital and pronounced dead at 6pm.”

He said the incident was not being treated as suspicious and that gardai were there only in an assisting capacity.

“Nobody can tell us what might have happened,” a spokesman said.

“The Atlantic Ocean is one of the most difficult oceans in the world.”

Another diver involved had minor leg injuries.

The incident happened about 200m off St John’s Point.

“A large wave disoriented them when they were diving and that is what got them into difficulty,” he added.

A spokesman for the coastguard at Malin Head said Rev Jones was “a very experienced diver, having dived frequently all along the Donegal coast over the past 10 years”.

He added: “We got the call at 4.30pm that a diver was in distress on the surface. The casualty and his buddy diver had suffered some incident on the surface.”

They climbed down steps near the lighthouse into water about 20-25 metres deep.

The coastguard had been unable to speak to his dive buddy as he was in shock and suffering hypothermia symptoms.

Rev Jones’ funeral will take place at 2pm tomorrow at his own church, Donemana Presbyterian Church in Co Tyrone.