Belfast Telegraph

McKinney family cruise turns to heartache as mum Luna falls into Lough Erne and drowns

By Cate McCurry

A mother who drowned after falling from a boat while on an Easter holiday with her family in Co Fermanagh has been named locally as Luna McKinney.

The mum of two young children was on a break with her husband Stephen when the accident happened at around 1am yesterday.  The couple from Co Donegal had hired a cruiser with their children, a boy aged 13 and girl aged 11.

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The youngsters were asleep in the boat at the time.

Mr McKinney heard the splash of his wife falling and dived in to Lough Erne in a desperate attempt to save her, but could not find her in the dark.

He alerted the emergency services, who launched a search of the area.

The 35-year-old was pulled from the lough some 45 minutes later.

Frantic efforts were made to revive Mrs McKinney, who was originally from China. However, she died in hospital.

Mr McKinney (41), who is originally from Strabane, was treated for shock following the accident.

It is believed that the McKinney family had lived in China for three years before returning to the Co Tyrone town last year.

They then moved to Convoy in Co Donegal.

A neighbour in the village's Flax Fields estate, who asked not to be named, described Luna as a "loving mother and a caring" person.

"She was just the nicest woman you could meet," they said.

"Stephen just came back there and he is absolutely exhausted, he doesn't want to speak to anybody.

"Luna had long flowing hair, like her daughter.

"She was a beautiful woman.

"We just can't make sense of it.

"You hear about tragedies like this all the time, but when it happens literally on your own doorstep it's very hard to believe."

Strabane priest Father Michael Doherty, who baptised the couple's two children when they returned from China, said that the community was shocked by the tragedy and would rally around the McKinney family.

"Stephen and his parents Frank and Gabrielle McKinney are very well-known and well-respected members of the community in Strabane," he said.

"The community here will give them support and sympathy as they come to terms with the tragic loss of their daughter in law." Neither of the parents were thought to have been wearing lifejackets at the time of the accident.

PSNI Chief Inspector Clive Beatty said: "We received a call at around 1.15am from a very distressed male who said his wife had fallen into the water.

"We responded immediately by land and water and within a matter of minutes we found her body.

"We made valiant attempts to resuscitate the lady at the time and while transferring her across the water to the waiting ambulance, and CPR was continued while they were on their way to the hospital, but unfortunately she died a short time after arrival.

"It's a terrible tragedy for the family.

"Water is extremely dangerous and I would appeal to everybody who comes to Fermanagh to obey the rules of the water and always wear a lifejacket.

"It was a difficult operation because of the emotion and circumstances involved."

The officer said Mr McKinney was "very, very shocked" in the wake of the tragedy.

"He is still in a state of shock as we speak and he is being looked after by medical professionals and by his wider family circle," Mr Beatty told RTE.

"They were up on holidays to enjoy the beautiful waterways of Fermanagh, but unfortunately it turned into a very tragic event."

There were "valiant efforts" at the scene to resuscitate the young mum before she was rushed to hospital, he added.

Enniskillen RNLI said in a statement: "All involved at Enniskillen RNLI would like to pass on their condolences to the family and friends who are in our thoughts and prayers."

Sinn Fein councillor Liam Doherty said there was shock in the village of Convoy.

"My sympathies go to the family at this tragic time," he said.

Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP Tom Elliott said it was a tragedy.

"This is just deeply sad; again we have another family in bereavement and my thoughts and prayers go out to them." he said.

"Lough Erne is a dangerous place and it has taken many lives over the years and I would call on people to be careful on the water."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was "heartbreaking news" for the area.

"The death of a young life will come as an immense shock to this area, and in particular the woman's family," she said.

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