Tributes to sailor Michael Beattie who died after falling into freezing water of Lough Erne
Tributes have been paid to a passionate sailor who drowned after slipping on the icy steps of his luxury yacht and falling into the freezing waters of Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh.
Michael Beattie (55), who recently moved from Moira to be with his partner Janice in Conlig, fell into Lough Erne at around 11pm on Monday when temperatures had plummeted well below zero.
Concerned friends found his unlocked boat with the lights still on, early on Tuesday morning.
It prompted an RNLI search for the missing father-of-one.
They discovered his body on the shore of Gublusk Bay at around 11am - 12 hours after he went missing.
A fellow sailor, and friend of more than 20 years, Adrian Lindsay (62), said the tragedy has left everyone in shock.
"We are completely devastated," he said.
"We are all dumbfounded that a man of such boating experience has come to such a tragic end.
"Michael knew every stone and ripple of that lough, but between hypothermia and drowning he didn't have a chance. It was just too cold."
Mr Lindsay said Michael will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.
"He was extremely popular and would have done anything for anyone," he added.
"Boating was his passion and he reached the pinnacle when he bought his latest vessel in 2015 - it was beautiful.
"He lived, loved and laughed, that was Michael - he will be talked about for many years."
Mr Beattie, who shared a passion for boats with his late father Ian, only bought the luxury Sealine F43 in 2015.
Rev Andrew Rawding said Michael "achieved one of his dreams" when he bought 43ft-long vessel.
He spent "every possible minute" on the boat with his partner Janice, who he first met at the Culky jetty in Lough Erne.
"They loved their boating life together and were a real team with Michael at the helm and Janice on rope duties - it was their second home," he added.
"Michael made Janice very happy, he was her world and she was his. They had many happy years together, full of wonderful memories."
Michael was one of the few all-year-round boaters at Lough Erne Yacht Club, where he once served as commodore.
The competent swimmer, who was originally from Coalisland, had no need to pull his new boat out of the water in the colder months because it was equipped with special heating equipment.
Club director, Neil Ireland, offered his "heartfelt condolences" to Michael's loved ones following the freak accident.
"The freezing water would have deprived anyone of their strength very quickly," he said.
"Unfortunately very few people are around at night over the winter months - it was just an extremely tragic set of circumstances."
Mr Ireland also paid tribute to a man who was always "the life and soul of the party".
"He put a smile on so many faces and will be sorely missed," he said.
Michael's body will be laid to rest alongside those of his parents following a funeral service in Brackaville Parish Church, Coalisland at 2pm today.