Devastation at tragic loss of brother and sister

The Shannon-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 115

Relatives, friends and acquaintances of the brother and sister who lost their lives in a dreadful double drowning tragedy in Kerry yesterday are struggling to come to terms with the devastating news that has shocked the country.

The victims have been named locally as Dessie Byrne, and his sister, Muriel Eriksson, who had arrived in Ballybunion for a holiday on Thursday morning.

Originally from Athlone, Co Westmeath, Dessie (50) had been living in Lecarrow, Co Roscommon for several years. His sister, Muriel Eriksson (62) was living and working in Malmo, Sweden and was home on holidays.

Tragedy: Ballybunion beach

It is understood that Mr Byrne’s teenage son had been on the beach when the tragedy occurred yesterday evening and he is today being comforted by members of his family.

Upset locals in the village of Lecarrow described Mr Byrne, who worked as a carpenter and was a keen sportsman, as a great community activist, a gentleman and a father who was devoted to his family.

One local councillor in Roscommon, Laurence Fallon, told local media: “He will be sorely missed by the community. It’s a terrible loss for his family, of course, but the wider community will feel the pain of his loss also”.

Cllr Fallon added: “Everyone is in shock. He was an absolute gentleman”.

The tragedy happened just after 6 o’clock on Thursday evening when lifeguards on duty at the beach were alerted to a man in difficulty in the water.

University Hospital Kerry: post mortems

They raised the alarm and rushed to help him as the Valentia-based Irish Coast Guard’s marine rescue coordination centre coordinated a major search and rescue operation.

Emergency services, including the Ballybunion community inshore rescue unit, the RNLI lifeboat from Kilrush, Co Clare, the Shannon-based Coast Guard Rescue 115 helicopter, the Cork-based community air ambulance, HSE ambulance crews and gardai, rushed to the scene and arrived very promptly.

Both bodies were recovered from the water and medical attention was administered but the brother and sister were pronounced dead by a local doctor.

The bodies of both deceased were then removed from the scene by ambulance to University Hospital Kerry in Tralee, where post mortem examinations were due to be carried out today.

Gardai in Listowel are coordinating the investigation into the double drowning and they have appealed to anybody on the beach at the time that may have witness what happened to get in touch. A file will be prepared for the local coroner who has been informed of the double tragedy.

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