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Man and woman lose their lives in Ireland sea tragedy

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


Irish Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter. Photo: Irish Coast Guard.

Irish Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter. Photo: Irish Coast Guard.

Irish Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter. Photo: Irish Coast Guard.

Two people have died in a drowning tragedy off Kerry.

They died despite desperate efforts by rescuers to save them off the north Kerry coast after the duo apparently got into difficulty in treacherous offshore currents.

One initial report indicated that one person got into difficulty - and that the second individual then courageously attempted to help their friend in the strong currents.

The deceased are understood to be a man in his 50s and a woman in her late 40s who were holidaying in the area over recent days.

Initial reports indicated they are a brother and sister from the Roscommon/Galway area who were on a break in Ballybunion with family members.

A juvenile relative of the duo was apparently on the beach and watched the entire tragedy unfold.

The juvenile was later treated for shock at the scene and then taken into the care of the emergency services pending him being reunited with relatives.

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A massive air-sea rescue operation by the Irish Coast Guard, Ballybunion Community Inshore Rescue, RNLI, Gardaí and Irish Community Air Ambulance was launched after the alarm was raised in the popular north Kerry resort.

Locals on the beach apparently spotted people in difficulty some distance offshore - and immediately raised the alarm amid concern for their welfare.

Rescue services raced to the scene after the alert was raised shortly after 6pm.

The Ballybunion unit of the Irish Coast Guard, Ballybunion Inshore Rescue and the RNLI lifeboat, which is based at Cappagh outside Kilrush, were tasked to the scene.

Supporting the operation was the Shannon-based Rescue 115 helicopter and the north Cork-based Irish Community Air Ambulance.

Rescuers were told that two people had gotten into difficulty while swimming.

Later reports indicated that a third person may also have been involved.

Shortly after arriving at the scene, the Ballybunion Inshore Rescue unit recovered a casualty from the water.

Despite desperate efforts to revive the unresponsive person, they were later pronounced dead at the scene.

A short time later, a second casualty was taken from the sea.

Again, paramedics desperately tried to revive the individual with the two helicopters on standby for an emergency hospital transfer to either University Hospital Limerick or University Hospital Kerry.

Tragically, the second individual was also pronounced dead.

The rescue operation was stood down sometime later when it was confirmed that there was no third individual in the water.

Gardaí were last night attempting to contact relatives of the couple in the Ballybunion resort and at their home address.

Rescue 115 had been on a mission from the Aran Islands to University Hospital Galway (UHG) when the crew were tasked with the north Kerry rescue and recovery operation.

The helicopter flew directly to Shannon Airport where fire crews were on standby to facilitate a so-called 'hot refuel.'

This is undertaken in urgent rescue conditions where a helicopter is refuelled while its engines are still running to maximise its response time.

Rescue 115 swept the seas off Ballybunion for almost two hours and assisted water and ground units with the casualty recoveries.

The rescue operation was only stood-down shortly after it was confirmed that there was no third casualty involved.

Once that was confirmed, the Irish Community Air Ambulance was allowed to return to its north Cork base of operations.

Watch officers from the Irish Coast Guard's marine rescue sub-centre on Valentia Island in Kerry helped to co-ordinate the entire operation.

Weather conditions were said to be good in north Kerry but strong breeze had developed over the afternoon which rendered the waters quite choppy.

Ballybunion locals expressed shock at the tragedy which has marred the local tourism recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown.

While enormously popular both as a beach resort and a golfing destination, the waters off north Kerry and Clare are notorious for unpredictable and powerful currents.

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