herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Tragic nuns drowned despite heroic efforts of people on beach

Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula in Co Kerry, where nuns Sr Paula Buckley and Sr Imelda Carew died
Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula in Co Kerry, where nuns Sr Paula Buckley and Sr Imelda Carew died
Tragedy: Sr Paula Buckley who died after getting into difficulty in the water at Inch Beach, Co Kerry
Sr Imelda Carew who died after getting into difficulty in the water at Inch Beach, Co Kerry

The blue flag beach where two nuns lost their lives in a double drowning tragedy had previously claimed as many as ten lives, an inquest has heard.

Sr Imelda Carew (67) and Sr Paula Buckley (70) both died of acute cardiac and respiratory failure due to accidental drowning.

Kerry County Council will be requested to erect signs warning the public of the danger.

The Presentation sisters had gone for a swim at Inch Strand on the Dingle Peninsula when tragedy struck.

Sr Mary Hanrahan, who lived with Sr Paula in Clondalkin in Dublin, had been watching her friends from the shoreline when they decided to go for a swim at around on August 14 last year.

Lifeguard

She told Tralee Coroner's Court she became concerned when she lost sight of the pair and alerted lifeguard Hugh Stewart, who ran with a colleague into the water.

"The lifeguard tried to reassure me there was nothing to worry about as the sea was calm," she said.

She soon saw something floating in the water and realised it was a body. She then saw a second one.

"When they were taken from the water, I realised they were my friends," she said.

Surfer Ciaran Kelliher told the inquest he noticed two elderly women outside of the breakwater. He said although they were out of their depth, they seemed comfortable.

A short time later he noticed them floating in the water about 25 metres apart and he helped bring their bodies ashore.

Hugh Stewart and fellow lifeguard Darragh Harkin brought the bodies ashore and commenced CPR, assisted by members of the public, including nurse Erin Cullinane and a Spanish tourist, who was a trained lifeguard.

Mr Stewart called for someone to bring the defibrillator from Annascaul, a village about 8km away. The first ambulance arrived around 20 minutes later and efforts continued to try to resuscitate the nuns.

They were airlifted to Kerry General Hospital where they were pronounced dead shortly after 9pm.

Sr Imelda was a native of Dundrum in Co Tipperary and Sr Paula was originally from Camas in Co Tipperary.

A statement from the Presentation Order said the inquest was another step on a journey of healing and acceptance.

"Our Presentation community and the families of Imelda and Paula have been comforted by the tremendous kindness of all those who reached out from across the globe," it added.

Since their deaths, members of their families and the local community have funded two defibrillators; one at Sammy's restaurant on the beach and another at Inch Community Centre.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News