One of the two siblings who drowned at Ballybunion Co Kerry on Thursday has been named as Desmond Byrne.
Mr Byrne was described as a fit and active man who was a valued member of the community by Noel Galvin, chairman of the Lecarrow Lazers cycling club — of which Mr Byrne was a member.
Mr Galvin told RTÉ Radio’s News at One that Mr Byrne frequently participated in charity cycles and was always available to help the club.
“He is well liked in the club and the area. He will be missed. He was very active in the parish and was always helping out in one way or the other.” Mr Galvin said that his friend had run his own carpet fitting business which operated throughout the midlands. News of the tragedy had passed through the small community very quickly on Thursday night with shock and horror the main response, he said.
“It was terrible news to get.
“Lecarrow is known for rallying together and we will rally around the family.”
People were finding it difficult to comprehend what had happened, said Mr Galvin. “The news was horrifying to hear.”
Mr Galvin extended his condolences to the Byrne family and Mr Byrne’s wide circle of friends. “We will be there for them.”
Mr Byrne and his sister were believed to be in their 50s and from Co Roscommon.
Earlier on Thursday Kerry councillor Robert Beasley said people in Ballybunion were “shocked beyond belief” following the double drowning of the siblings.
The alarm was raised some time before 7pm when the Irish Coast Guard Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Valentia received a call and a large search and rescue operation was put into place
The Irish Coast Guard Sikorsky helicopter Rescue 115 was tasked from Shannon while both the Ballybunion community inshore rescue boat and Kilrush RNLI lifeboat were also launched.
The body of one of the swimmers was brought ashore while the operation was being launched and the person was pronounced dead by a local GP as the search operation for the second person began.
The second casualty was recovered from the water by the Ballybunion community inshore rescue boat and brought ashore where they too were pronounced dead by the local GP.
It’s understood that both bodies were removed to University Hospital Kerry in Tralee for postmortems, which will form part of a Garda file into the tragedy for inquests at the Coroner’s Court.
Mr Beasley said he passed by the beach an hour before the alarm was raised and had noticed there were about 700 people on both beaches, “making sandcastles and bathing”.
Later he met families returning from the beach. “I met a lot of parents and children coming off the beach and they were in a really upset, distressed state.” People were shocked and very upset especially when the bodies were brought to shore.
“The next couple of days will be very difficult. It’s very upsetting.”
Conditions at the time would not have been considered dangerous, he said on Newstalk Breakfast. There had been a stiff northwesterly breeze and the water was choppy. There were lifeguards on duty at the time.
Gardaí were taking witness statements from people who were in the area at the time but no further details have been released.
The Irish Times