Kerry tragedy | 

Man and woman who died in Ballybunion drowning believed to be brother and sister

Their bodies have been taken to University Hospital Kerry for post-mortem examinations

Desmond Byrne


Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

The man and woman who died in the County Kerry drowning tragedy yesterday evening are believed to have been a brother and sister.

A major air-sea rescue operation was launched after reports of two individuals in difficulty in the sea off Men’s Beach, Ballybunion, in north Kerry on Thursday afternoon.

The man, who was aged in his 40’s, was removed from the water by members of Ballybunion Sea and Cliff Rescue and Ballybunion Coast Guard.

Emergency services performed CPR but he was pronounced dead a short time later.

The woman, also in her 40's, was found in the water during a follow up search, she too was pronounced dead after receiving treatment at the scene.

Initial reports suggested the pair were from the same family and it is now believed they were brother and sister.

Their bodies have been taken to University Hospital Kerry for post-mortem examinations.

Locals say it was a sunny day in Ballybunion but a strong breeze made the water choppy and hazardous.

The emergency response included units of the Irish Coast Guard, Gardaí, RNLI, Civil Defence and both the Shannon-based Rescue 115 helicopter and the north Cork-based air ambulance.

The Ballybunion unit of the Irish Coast Guard, Ballybunion Rescue and the RNLI lifeboat based at Cappagh near Kilrush in Co Clare have been tasked to the scene.

The alarm was raised at around 6.30pm.

It is understood that the initial report to emergency services indicated that two people had gotten into difficulty while swimming off Ballybunion beach.

Search and rescue crews were quickly dispatched to the area.

While en route to the scene on the other side of the Shannon Estuary, the Kilrush lifeboat was stood down after it was reported that two people had been recovered.

Soon afterwards, the lifeboat was requested to turn around and continue to Ballybunion after the Irish Coast Guard received further information suggesting that a third person could be missing.

The volunteer lifeboat crew immediately proceeded to the search area off Ballybunion.

The Shannon-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter had been on a mission from the Aran Islands to University Hospital Galway when the crew was tasked to the search operation.

Rescue 115 flew directly to Shannon Airport where fire crews were standing by so they could undertake a hot-refuel.

A hot-refuel is when an aircraft is refuelled while the engines are still running.

After the helicopter had been refuelled, the crew made their way directly to the scene to assist in the search.

As the operation continued further information became available to rescue services that suggested there were only two casualties and not a third as feared.

The Kilrush RNLI life about the Rescue 115 were requested to continue to the area and carry out searches as a precaution.

The search and rescue operation was mounted and coordinated by watch officers at the Irish Coast Guard’s marine rescue sub centre on Valentia Island in Kerry.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Sinn Féin Councillor Robert Beasley said people in the area are “shocked beyond belief.”

He said there were around 700 people between both beaches in the area at the time.

“It was only a few minutes before that people were enjoying themselves on the beach, children and parents,” he said.

“As I was going on to the beach, I met a lot of parents and children coming off the beach and they were in a really upset, distressed state.”

He said the beach itself is not viewed as dangerous but conditions were quite rough at the time with a strong breeze.

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