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Saturday 7 December 2019

Desperate lifeboat crew couldn't save volunteer mate Lee

The pier on Arranmore from where the car went into the sea
The pier on Arranmore from where the car went into the sea

Desperate members of a lifeboat crew tried to save the life of a colleague whose car slipped into the sea in a freak accident off the coast of Co Donegal.

The victim has been named locally as Lee Early (26), from Arranmore Island.

The tight-knit island community, which has a population of around 450 people, was in shock over the tragedy.

Another man in his 30s was lucky to escape after the car went into the sea at Poolawaddy Pier just after 5am yesterday.

Mr Early, who worked on the Arranmore Ferry, was also a volunteer on the island's RNLI lifeboat and his father Jimmy is coxswain on the local lifeboat.

Heroic

Members of the lifeboat crew, whose station is close to the scene of the tragedy, rushed to save Mr Early and his friend after their car entered the water.

The passenger managed to swim free but Mr Early died at the scene despite the heroic efforts of the lifeboat crew members to resuscitate him.

RNLI area manager Owen Medland said Mr Early's death was a huge loss to the island.

"The deceased was one of our volunteers and was very close to us. He was a super young man who would be a loss to any community, never mind a small community," he said.

"As an organisation, our thoughts are with the family, our volunteer crew who fought valiantly to save the young man's life, and the wider Arranmore community.

"We would like to assure the community that after what appears was a tragic accident, we are maintaining our lifeboat service on the island, which is further testimony to the crew in Arranmore."

Local Donegal Fianna Fail TD Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher said he was shocked by the news of Mr Early's death. He said he knew the family, who he described as "true islanders", and said there was a great sense of loss as a result of Mr Early's death.

"A sense of deep shock descended on the island when news broke of the tragic death of Lee," he said.

"He was a highly regarded, hard-working and popular young man from a well-respected island family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time."

A full garda investigation into the tragedy has commenced.

The investigation will probe how the men's car ended up in the sea off the pier which is at the rear of the island.

A post-mortem will be carried out today at Letterkenny University Hospital to determine an official cause of death.

Mr Early's family, including father Jimmy, mother Noreen, brother Adam and sisters Rachel and Laura, were being comforted by family and friends on the island. The island has been at the centre of a huge campaign aimed at persuading people from around the world to live there.

Locals even wrote letters to families in America and Australia telling them of the benefits of coming to live on the island.

The island, 5km off the coast of Donegal, has its own health centre, community centre, three schools and even a digital hub. .

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