A grandmother and her partner have lost their lives while on a family holiday in the Republic after a freak incident involving a horse and cart they were travelling in.
The two victims, who were an American couple in their 60s, were on a family day out when the tragedy occurred at the Gap of Dunloe, Co Kerry, yesterday afternoon.
They are understood to be of Irish extraction and had been living in Phoenix, Arizona.
The deceased were part of a group of six, which included the woman, her partner, her daughter, her son-in-law and her two grandchildren.
They had all travelled to Ireland at Easter for a family holiday and were staying in the Killarney area.
A Garda investigation has been launched into the tragedy, with officers still trying to establish the exact cause of the crash.
A senior source last night said that early indications are that the horse became startled and bolted.
As a result, the couple were thrown from the cart and fell 20ft down steep terrain, suffering catastrophic injuries.
Emergency services rushed to the scene, but the couple were pronounced dead a short time later.
The experienced driver of the horse and cart escaped serious injuries but is said to be “very distressed”. He was treated for shock at the scene.
The horse that was pulling the cart also died in the accident.
Gardai were last night continuing to inform the victims’ next of kin abroad about the tragedy and were liaising with the US Embassy in Dublin.
The relatives of the grandmother were travelling in a separate cart and came across the scene moments after the accident, but did not witness it.
A source last night said: “The deceased are a couple from the US, and they were around 3km into their journey when the fatal incident occurred. “They were with another group who came across the scene in the immediate aftermath, and they are absolutely distraught as you can imagine,” the source added.
The bodies of the victims were transferred by hearse to Kerry General Hospital shortly before 6pm yesterday. The office of the state pathologist has been notified and post mortem examinations are to be carried out.
Gardai and emergency services at the scene of the tragedy were assisted by members of the Kerry mountain rescue teams, whose expertise was required given the steep nature of the terrain involved.
Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce expressed its sympathy to the family.
Chamber President Paul O’Neill said the loss of two lives had stunned the entire Kerry community.
“We are all shocked and saddened by this most tragic accident,” he said.
“The Gap of Dunloe is one Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations, a place that brings joy to tourists the world over, and we are devastated that a visit to it by this couple would end in such tragic circumstances.
“The people of Killarney extend our heartfelt sympathies to all affected by this tragedy and will do whatever we can to support the family during this very sad time.”