A community is in shock after a man and his sister drown while swimming at a popular tourist spot.
Dessie Byrne, 52, of two died trying to rescue 62-year-old Muriel Eriksson when she got into trouble off Ballybunion beach in Co Kerry.
Mr Byrne’s teenage son, who was on the beach at the time, is believed to have witnessed the tragedy on Thursday afternoon.
Originally from Athlone, Mr Byrne and his wife Paulette have lived in the village of Lecarrow in Co Roscommon for more than 20 years.
He was a carpenter and had his own carpet laying business.
When you talk about Dessie Byrne, you think of a fun-loving character who always had a smile on her face
His sister has been living in Malmö, southern Sweden, for the last few years, but has maintained very close ties to Ireland.
It is understood that she was employed by the local authority in Malmö as an administrative assistant in the health department.
A spokesman declined to comment yesterday, saying they had not been officially contacted about her death.
In Baylough, outside Athlone, the brother and sister’s cousins declined to speak about the tragedy, saying they were “very shocked” by their deaths and that it was “very raw”.
Westmeath County Council leader Aengus O’Rourke was a childhood friend of the Byrne family and said the entire community was stunned by the tragedy.
“When you talk about Dessie Byrne, you think of a fun-loving character who always had a smile on his face,” he said.
“I just can’t believe he’s gone. He was such a multi-talent.
“Everyone is stunned by the scale of this tragedy.”
Mr O’Rourke said the Byrne family are “well respected” in the area.
As people in the village of Lecarrow struggled to come to terms with the tragedy, Noel Galvin, chairman of the local Lecarrow Lazers Cycling Club, said he grew up with Mr Byrne in Baylough and they both moved to the Lecarrow area.
He described him as “a very funny man, a great character, a family man”.
“He was very prominent in our cycling club and took part in many charity cycle races – we cycled into Wales and all over Ireland. He was a popular guy,” he said.
Local people are shocked and saddened, Mr O’Rourke said.
“He was just such a prominent member of the community — he was always helping with everything for charity, he was always there so everyone is stunned,” he added.
“Even people who don’t know him are stunned because Lecarrow is very connected and when something like this happens we gather and for the next few days we will gather.”
It is understood that Mr Byrne, his sister and son arrived in Ballybunion just days before the tragedy.
Mrs Eriksson was home from Sweden for a holiday.
The siblings are believed to be swimming at the beach just after 4pm on Thursday when they got into trouble.
Mr Byrne’s distraught son, who was on the beach at the time, was found by emergency services and treated for shock before being later reunited with relatives.
All are stunned by the scale of this tragedy
Kerry rescue workers described the tragedy as the worst swimming accident in the area in more than three decades.
Ballybunion Strand is reputed to be one of the most picturesque in Ireland, but is notorious for strong tides and strong currents lapping the north coast of Kerry – currents that can prove dangerous for the unwary.
It is believed Ms Eriksson first got into trouble while swimming off shore.
It is believed that her brother, who was also swimming, noticed that she was in trouble and rushed to her aid.
However, he quickly fell victim to the same currents and also got into trouble.
The alarm went off at 6pm when a passing person spotted a man they believed to be struggling in the sea.
Mr Byrne’s body was later washed closer to shore and when emergency services reached the area they pulled him lifeless from the water.
Local people in Ballybunion were devastated by the tragedy
Despite prolonged efforts to revive him, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
A massive rescue operation was unleashed amid local concerns that two other people remained in the water.
Irish Coastguard units were involved including the Shannon-based rescue helicopter Rescue 115, a Kilrush-based RNLI lifeboat, the Ballybunion coastal lifeboat and Ballybunion Sea and Cliff Rescue.
The North Cork-based Irish Community Air Ambulance, with Gardaí and HSE officers providing shore support, was also involved in the operation.
A short time later, the body of Ms Eriksson’s sister was recovered from the water.
She was unresponsive and was pronounced dead at the scene despite efforts to revive her.
Both bodies were later transferred to Kerry University Hospital (UHK) where post mortems were performed yesterday.
Garda sources said the deaths were being treated as tragic accidents, with both siblings believed to have drowned.
A file is now being prepared for a coroner’s inquest in Kerry next year.
Local people in Ballybunion were devastated by the tragedy.
Councilman Robert Beasley said everyone in the city was shocked at the double loss of life.
He had been walking down the cliffs when he saw the emergency surgery but thought it was a training exercise.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/everyone-is-just-numbed-by-the-scale-of-the-tragedy-locals-left-reeling-after-drowning-of-brother-and-sister-off-kerry-beach-41893395.html Local people in Roscommon staggered outside Ballybunion in Kerry after the drownings of brother and sister Dessie Byrne and Muriel Eriksson