By Michelle Devane, PA
Ballybunion drowning victim Desmond Byrne has been described as a fit and active man who was a valued member of the community.
Noel Galvin, chairman of the Lecarrow Lazers cycling club – of which Mr Byrne was a member, 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 added 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. “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.”
Postmortem examinations are due to get under way after the brother and sister are suspected to have drowned off Ballybunion Beach, Co Kerry.
Emergency services were called to the beach on Thursday evening after they were alerted that a person had got into difficulty in the water.
It is understood the alarm was raised by a teenage relative.
Gardaí confirmed a man (50) and a woman (62) were pronounced dead at the scene after they were recovered from the water. They were brother and sister.
The man had an address in Co Roscommon, while the woman had an address in Malmo, Sweden.
Their bodies were removed from the scene by ambulance and taken to the mortuary in University Hospital Kerry in Tralee.
The Irish Coast Guard, Ballybunion Community Rescue Boat Ireland and Kilrush RNLI were involved in the operation.
In a statement the Irish Coast Guard said Valentia Coast Guard received a report shortly after 5pm that a person was in difficulty in Ballybunion.
“A full scale search and rescue operation was mounted with Shannon-based Coast Guard Helicopter R115, Ballybunion Community Rescue Boat Ireland and Kilrush RNLI all being tasked to scene,” the statement read.
“Shortly afterwards, a second person was recovered from the water by Ballybunion Community Rescue Boat Ireland.
“The man and woman were pronounced dead on scene. The search was stood down following confirmation that no other persons were missing.
“The Coast Guard express sympathy to the family of the two casualties.”
Local Sinn Féin councillor Robert Beasley said the community had been left in shock after the “horrible tragedy”.
The councillor, who lives near Ballybunion beach, told PA: “There was a lot of people on the beach at the time, maybe 600 people or 700 people.
“I met a lot of people on the clifftop and when they realised what was happening men, women and children were leaving in their droves and they were in a terrible distressed state.
“An hour and a half before, when I passed, people were happy, building sandcastles and generally having fun on the beach.
“Two deaths in the space of a couple of minutes on the water. It’s terrible – a terrible tragedy. People are shocked beyond belief.”
Mr Beasley offered his deepest condolences to the family affected.