Sailing and horse racing communities grieve tragic deaths

The Galway sailing and horse racing community have been plunged into a state of shock and grief following the tragic drowning of a Connemara boatsman and the death of a young up-and-coming jockey in a suspected arson attack last weekend.

Family and friends gathered in Carna yesterday evening to pay their respects to a popular boatman, Seán MacDonncha (67 ), known locally as Johnny Sheáin Jeaic McDonncha, of Ard West, Carna, who lost his life when his traditional Galway hooker capsized last Saturday morning. He had been sailing in the gleoiteog McHugh with his brother Josie Sheáin Jeaic MacDonncha (66 ) and they had been on their way from Kinvara to Rossaveal when the boat got into difficulty near to Kilcolgan Point.

Mr MacDonncha is survived by wife Barbera, daughters Kathy, Maureen, Roisín, and Fiona, and son Sean. His funeral Mass took place at St Mary’s Church in Carna, at 12 noon yesterday and he was laid to rest at Moyrus Cemetery.

According to a statement received from Galway RNLI, a major air and sea rescue operation took place shortly before 11am on September 5 after the Galway hooker sank. Another sailboat with four men on board immediately raised the alarm and quickly turned back to assist the two men.

One of the four crew on the second vessel, the Bláth na hÓige, jumped in and managed to get the MacDonncha brothers out of the water and onto their boat. An Irish Coastguard helicopter from Shannon got to the scene within minutes and winched one of the men onboard. The Galway RNLI lifeboat arrived a few minutes later, at 11.10am, and took the other casualty on board. Both men were in a critical condition and were taken to Galway Docks where waiting ambulances rushed them to University Hospital Galway.

Josie Sheáin Jeaic, who was suffering from shock, was discharged from hospital yesterday. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board and the Gardai have launched investigations into the incident.

Mairtin Tom Sheáinin, of Raidió na Gaeltachta, described Johnny Sheáin Jeaic as a “gentleman and a great sean-nós singer”. Of the tragedy he said, “It is one of the saddest things to have happened to experienced sailspersons like Johnny and Josie”.

Meanwhile, no funeral arrangements have yet been made for Claregalway native and jockey Jamie Kyne who perished in a fire which ripped through a three-storey block of flats in Norton, near Malton, north Yorkshire, England, at around 2.15am last Saturday.

The 18-year-old died in the blaze which also claimed the life of 19-year-old Scottish apprentice jockey Jan Wilson. Another Irishman, Ian Brennan (20 ), narrowly managed to escape when he jumped to safety.

A man in his 30s was arrested shortly after the incident but was released on bail on Sunday. British police have issued an appeal for witnesses to help them establish the circumstances surrounding the fire, which is being treated as suspicious.

Mr Kyne, whose devastated family run Kiltrogue stud farm in Claregalway, won 29 races this year and had been tipped as the potential winner of the Apprentice Jockey of the Year award. He is survived by his parents Gerry and Madeline, brothers Jason, Francis, Brandon, and Daniel, and by his sister Cassandra.

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