Belfast Telegraph

Friends of Deirdre McShane gather on Ballycastle beach following tragic death

Second woman treated for hypothermia

Ballycastle
Ballycastle
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Friends of swimmer Deirdre McShane gathered on Ballycastle beach following her tragic death on Monday morning.

Deirdre, who was 58, was a community midwife and mother of two.

A group of six women, each kneeling on the sand, gathered close to the scene on Monday.

The poignant moment came just hours after a group got into difficulty during an early morning swim.

Friends and family of Deidre McShane together on Ballycastle beach.
Friends and family of Deidre McShane together on Ballycastle beach.
Emergency services at the scene in Ballycastle. Credit McAuley Multimedia
The air ambulance at the scene. Credit McAuley Multimedia

A Northern Trust spokesperson said paid tribute to Ms McShane.

"The Northern Trust team and in particular our midwifery colleagues, are heartbroken by the tragic death of Deirdre McShane, who was a community midwife in the Ballycastle area," they said.

"We extend our most sincere and heartfelt sympathies to her partner, her two beloved children and the wider family circle.

"Deirdre was a kind and dedicated midwife who was passionate about providing excellent maternity care to mothers and babies.  Deirdre had such a caring and compassionate manner which made a great difference to all the women and families she cared for.

"Our thoughts are also with her teams in Ballycastle and Ballymoney who will miss her incredibly as will her many friends and colleagues across the Trust."

Sinn Fein councillor Cara McShane said she was a relation of Deirdre McShane and was very friendly with her.

NIFRS, HEMS,NIAS,HMGC RNLI, and police are dealing with the incident. PICTURE KEVIN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA
NIFRS, HEMS,NIAS,HMGC RNLI, and police are dealing with the incident. PICTURE KEVIN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA

"It is just a shock. Everyone is trying to get their head round what has happened," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"She was a really loved and likeable type of person. She was in to her health and wellbeing. She would have swam daily and she was always there as a confidant for other people.

"She always wanted to learn and experience new things. She took up Irish two years ago.

"She was very much into traditional music and Irish. She was a community midwife and would have been wellknown."

Councillor McShane, who is an election candidate for the North Antrim constituency, said Deirdre was a very cautious and careful swimmer who would never take unnecessary risks.

It must have been a freak incident, whether it was a riptide or not, that has not been confirmed. Sinn Fein's Cara McShane

09/12/19 A General view of Ballycastle Beach where a woman has drowned and another person is critical after a group of swimmers got into difficulties on the beach early on Monday morning. Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia
09/12/19 A General view of Ballycastle Beach where a woman has drowned and another person is critical after a group of swimmers got into difficulties on the beach early on Monday morning. Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

"She would have been one of the most cautious swimmers. She would not have went out far at all, this morning was such a beautiful winter morning. The tides are unforgiving," she said.

"It is just so tragic, the whole community is in shock and reeling over her death."

A major rescue operation swung into operation at around 8.30am after reports a group of swimmers got into difficulty off the Co Antrim shoreline.

Another woman was taken to hospital with hypothermia. Her condition was described as stable.

Images from the scene of the major incident show the air ambulance, along with police, the fire service and RNLI.

DUP election candidate Ian Paisley described the death as an "absolute tragedy".

NI Ambulance service spokesman Joe McCaughern at the scene of a drowning incident in Ballycastle. Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia
NI Ambulance service spokesman Joe McCaughern at the scene of a drowning incident in Ballycastle. Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

Mr Paisley said: "It is a regular beauty spot for people to go swimming, especially fresh water swimming and you usually find a lot of accomplished swimmers up round there.

"Unfortunately it appears one of these poor people have got into tragic circumstances, maybe caught in a riptide. Another person is in hospital, I understand quite seriously ill with hypothermia. My heart goes out to them and their families."

Mr Paisley, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph while campaigning in Dervock, added: "I know what this is like, I have seen it first hand, death and destruction on the Causeway Coast.

"A few years ago I rescued a boy who was drowning. I rescued another boy who lost his life, so I know a little about the sorrow that brings to families. It is an absolute tragedy and my sympathies and prayers are with these folk."

Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Sean Bateson offered his condolences following the tragedy.

"News of this tragedy has been met with profound shock and sadness, and my prayers are with the victim’s family and friends as they come to terms with their loss," he said.

No one could have predicted the awful events which unfolded at the beach this morning, a place where many people go to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the landscape, all year round. Mayor Sean Bateson

He added: "I want to commend our emergency services who attended the scene and were faced with such a difficult situation, as well as those members of the public who came to the aid of those involved and did all they could to help. At this time our thoughts are with the second swimmer who remains in hospital, and I pray she goes on to make a full recovery from this dreadful ordeal.”

The Ambulance Service said it sent crews after a 999 call at 8.28am following reports of a number of swimmers in difficulty.

Following assessment and initial treatment at the scene, one female patient was taken by ambulance to the Causeway Hospital.

Joe McCaughern, an ambulance spokesperson, told the Belfast Telegraph that four women had gone to the beach to swim.

Two of the women decided not to enter the water, while the other two did.

He said: "Unfortunately one of the ladies, on entering the water, got into difficulty and her colleague got out to raise the alarm. "

Mr McCaughern said Deirdre was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics from the Air Ambulance.

A Coastguard spokesman said it received a call at 8.30am after reports of two women in the water.

At the time it was reported one woman was pulled from the water, however, the other was in difficulty and being washed out to sea.

"We tasked two RNLI lifeboats, one from Red Bay and one from Portrush and two coastguard rescue teams, one from Ballycastle and one from Coleraine," the spokesman said.

"A Coastguard rescue helicopter was also sent to the scene. As the first team was arriving they reported that the two females were out of the water. The ambulance service was dealing with the casualties so we stood down the two RNLI lifeboats and the Coastguard helicopter."

Earlier Inspector Mick Wood said: "Officers attended the scene along with other emergency services colleagues, including the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, Air Ambulance NI and The Coastguard.

"Tragically, one of the women passed away at the scene.

"The second female has been taken to hospital where she remains undergoing treatment.

"Our officers remain at the scene as we continue to deal with this tragic incident."

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service also offered its sympathies to the family and friends of Ms McShane.

“Two Fire Appliances from Ballycastle Fire Station, along with other emergency services, attended the scene to assist with the safety of two female swimmers," she said.

“Both swimmers were out of the water on arrival of Fire Crews.  Firefighters assisted paramedics with CPR.

“The second female was taken to hospital by Northern Ireland Ambulance Service. The incident was dealt with at 9.39am".

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