Post mortem examinations will be conducted later today on two people who died in a drowning tragedy off the coast of Kerry.
They perished despite desperate attempts by lifeguards off the north coast of Kerry after the duo apparently got into trouble due to treacherous coastal currents.
One of the initial reports indicated that a man was in a difficult situation, and then a second man courageously tried to help his friend in a strong current.
The dead are a 50-year-old man and a 62-year-old woman who have been vacationing in the area in recent days.
Initial reports indicated they were a brother and sister from the Roscommon/Galway area who were vacationing in Ballybanion with family members.
The woman has lived in Sweden in recent years and has an address in the Malmö area.
Her brother, originally from Athlone, lives in Lecarrow.
Garda contacted the siblings’ relatives.
Horrifyingly, an underage relative of the duo was apparently on the beach watching the entire tragedy unfold.
The teenager was later treated for shock on the spot and then taken to emergency services until he was reunited with relatives.
Both bodies were taken last night to University Hospital Kerry (UHK), where a full post-mortem examination will be performed tonight.
After the alarm was raised at the popular resort in north Kerry, a massive air and sea rescue operation was launched by the Irish Coast Guard, Ballybunion Community Inshore Rescue, RNLI, Gardaí and Air Ambulance Air Ambulance.
The locals on the beach apparently noticed the man in trouble some distance from the shore and immediately raised the alarm, fearing for their well-being.
Rescuers arrived at the scene after the announcement of the alarm around 18:00.
Michael O’Toole, operations manager for the Irish Coast Guard, said the Coast Guard had received notice that there were stranded people in the Ballybanion Bay area at 6:00 pm Thursday night.
“Shortly after that, we received notification that local rescuers had lifted the victim out of the water, at which point the operation was also supported by Garda and the national ambulance service.
“The Ballybanion community shore rescue boat pulled another victim out of the water, and, as we regrettably stressed, the operation ended tragically.
“Again, our thoughts should be with the families and friends of those affected by this incident,” Mr O’Toole told RTÉ Morning Ireland.
Mr. O’Toole said conditions were “satisfactory” and despite sea breezes making the water choppy, he said conditions were not unfavorable.
It’s not yet known how the siblings got into trouble, and Michel said the guards have launched an investigation into the tragic drowning, but the Coast Guard “has some information that they were swimming.”
“These incidents concern a wide range of affected individuals and communities, as well as various groups. You get an idea of a large number of organizations involved in this operation and the tragic incident.
“I think this is an example of the kind of cooperation and positive work that exists between services in Ireland, but unfortunately in this case there was a tragic, tragic outcome,” said Mr O’Toole.
An Irish Coast Guard unit, Ballybunion, a Ballybunion Inshore Rescue and an RNLI lifeboat based at Cappag outside Kilrush were dispatched to the scene.
The operation was supported by a Rescue 115 helicopter based in Shannon and an Irish Community Air Ambulance based in north Cork.
Rescuers said two people were stranded while swimming.
Later reports indicated that a third person may have been involved as well.
Soon after arriving at the scene, rescuers removed the victim from the water.
Despite desperate attempts to revive the unconscious man, he was later declared dead at the scene.
Some time later, a second victim was brought from the sea.
Once again, paramedics frantically tried to resuscitate the man with two helicopters on standby for transport to an emergency hospital, either Limerick University Hospital or Kerry University Hospital.
Unfortunately, the second person was also declared dead.
The rescue operation was called off after some time, when it was confirmed that the third person was not in the water.
Last night, the Garda tried to contact the couple’s relatives at the Ballybanion resort and at their home address.
Rescue 115 was on a mission from the Aran Islands to University Hospital Galway (UHG) when the team was tasked with carrying out a rescue and recovery operation in North Kerry.
The helicopter flew directly to Shannon Airport, where fire crews were on standby to provide a so-called “hot refueling”.
This is done in emergency rescue situations where the helicopter is refueled while its engines are still running to maximize response time.
Rescue Service 115 battled the sea off Ballybanion for almost two hours and assisted water and land units with the recovery of the wounded.
The rescue operation was only called off shortly after it was confirmed that there was no third casualty.
Once this was confirmed, the Irish Community Air Ambulance was allowed to return to their base of operations in North Cork.
Watch officers from the Irish Coast Guard Marine Rescue Sub-Center on Valentia Island in Kerry helped coordinate the entire operation.
Weather conditions in north Kerry were reported to be good, but strong winds blew during the day, causing the water to be rather choppy.
Ballybunion locals expressed shock at the tragedy, which overshadowed the recovery of local tourism after the Covid-19 pandemic stopped.
Despite its huge popularity as a beach resort and golf destination, the waters off northern Kerry and Clare are notorious for unpredictable and strong currents.