herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Divers in race against weather to find body of missing student in triple drowning tragedy

Irish Coastguard service and the RNLI pictured off the Beacon in Baltimore, co. Cork where two people have died and a third is missing
Irish Coastguard service and the RNLI pictured off the Beacon in Baltimore, co. Cork where two people have died and a third is missing
Niamh O'Connor
Barry Davis Ryan
Barry Ryan

DIVERS are engaged in a race against the weather in west Cork to recover the body of missing student, Barry Davis Ryan (20), who drowned in a triple tragedy last Tuesday.

Mr Davis Ryan drowned after diving into the sea at East Hole, the Beacon outside Baltimore in a bid to save his girlfriend, Niamh O'Connor (20), who was swept off rocks into the sea.

When he got into difficulty, his father, Barry Ryan (51), a scion of the family which founded Penney's/Primark, also dived into the sea in a doomed bid to save the youngsters.

All three drowned.

The bodies of Mr Ryan and Ms O'Connor were recovered within minutes but the body of Mr Davis Ryan is still missing.

Today, Naval Service and West Cork Rescue Divers (WCRD) have extended their search area in a desperate bid to locate the remains before weather conditions deteriorate.

Dive teams operated from before 6am to 10pm last night.

Today, they will under dives in shifts as the search area is extended beyond the entrance to Baltimore harbour.

Concern is mounting that the strong currents which swirl past the entrance to the west Cork harbour may have moved Mr Davis Ryan's remains some distance from where the tragedy occurred.

John Kearney of WCRD said no effort is being spared.

"The aim is to cover as much of the area as possible while the weather conditions are still favourable," he told the Herald.

Divers and Irish Coastguard search co-ordinators are acutely aware of the fact weather conditions are due to chance this evening.

If, as expected, a major sea swell develops all diving operations may have to be suspended for four or five days.

Throughout the search operation the Irish Coastguard have maintained volunteers on all local headlands to report any trace of the body surfacing.

When a freak wave swept Niamh O'Connor (20) into the sea in Baltimore in West Cork Barry Davis Ryan jumped in after her. His father, Barry Ryan, then also entered the water.

Ryan (51) - a descendant of the family that founded Irish retail giants Penney's/Primark - drowned alongside Ms O'Connor. Mr Davis Ryan (20) is still missing.

READ MORE: Hero dad tried to save son and girlfriend in drowning tragedy

The Ryan family, originally from Dublin, have been living in West Cork for some time.

Baltimore locals said they were devastated by the triple tragedy.

It is feared that Ms O'Connor was swept out to sea from rocks while she was admiring the view at the entrance to the harbour.

The tragedy occurred shortly after 6pm at East Hole, just metres from the Beacon, one of the most popular tourist spots in the area.

Ms O'Connor's boyfriend courageously dived into the sea in a bid to save her.

When he also got into difficulty, his father shouted at his 14-year-old daughter, Charlotte, to run and raise the alarm before diving into the sea in a bid to save the two young people.

Locals said it was particularly distressing for Charlotte, who had been very nervous of the sea her entire life.

The bodies of Mr Ryan and Ms O'Connor were recovered and taken to Baltimore Pier where both were pronounced dead.

READ MORE: Three feared dead after family is swept into sea during walk

The search is continuing for Barry Davis Ryan.

Over 60 search personnel are involved, with divers admitting they now face a race against time as weather and sea conditions are expected to significantly deteriorate within 24 hours.

Ms O'Connor, who is from Glanmire on the outskirts of Cork city, is a student at University College Cork (UCC).

She had been dating Mr Ryan, a Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) student, for several months and had travelled to West Cork for a brief holiday with her boyfriend and his family.

Both UCC and CIT expressed their condolences to the two families.

Mr Ryan Snr (50) had worked as a senior executive with Penny's/Primark and was also a respected photographer and author.

Mr Ryan and Mr Davis Ryan are the son and grandson of Arthur Ryan (82), a founder of Penney's.

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