Horror as two drown and one man escapes after jeep is swept into river
Two friends died in a Christmas Day tragedy after the vehicle they were travelling in entered a river in the early hours of the morning.
Gardai recovered two bodies following a large-scale search operation in Co Mayo yesterday.
The occupants of the vehicle were last night named locally as Declan Davitt (26) and Martin Needham (27), who were from the nearby parish of Louisburgh.
Rescue teams had been carrying out the searches for the two local men after their vehicle got into difficulty near the Carrowniskey River, close to the coastline.
They were travelling in a jeep near the river when they were swept away shortly after 2.30am yesterday morning.
The third occupant of the 4X4, a 19-year-old male named locally as Tom McGreal, managed to escape the vehicle before raising the alarm at around 3am.
Emergency services were alerted and a rescue operation was launched to find the two missing men.
An Irish Coast Guard helicopter was also dispatched and had been carrying out coastline searches throughout the early morning and afternoon.
The Sligo-based Rescue 118 aircraft carried out aerial searches down stream from the scene of the incident.
The small river leads into the sea along the Mayo coastline.
A garda spokeswoman confirmed yesterday afternoon that two unidentified bodies were recovered as part of the search operation.
Shortly before 4pm yesterday afternoon the first body was recovered.
An Irish Coast Guard winch-operator recovered the remains from the sea before bringing them aboard Rescue 118. A short time later, a second male body was recovered from the sea and brought to the shoreline.
Both remains have not yet been positively identified and were transferred by ambulance to University Hospital Castlebar where the post-mortem examinations are expected to be carried out this morning.
The search operation has since been stood down.
Mr Davitt and Mr Needham were both originally from the Louisburgh area, located around 4km north of the scene of the tragedy.
An investigation has been launched by officers at Louisburgh Garda Station to determine the cause of the tragic incident.
Gardai are probing if strong weather conditions over Sunday night played a role in the tragedy.
The stream is understood to be passable for vehicles such as a 4X4, but large rainfall added to water levels in the area and may have been a contributing factor in the tragedy.
A garda spokesman early yesterday said that the operation was focusing on the recovery of two bodies.
"Gardai in Louisburgh, Co Mayo are at the scene of a road traffic incident that occurred in the early hours of this morning Monday, December 25, 2017," he said.
"A four-wheel drive vehicle with three men on board was crossing the Carrowniskey River at approximately 2.30am when their vehicle became totally submerged in water," a garda spokeswoman said.
"The vehicle was swept down the river and one man (19 years) managed to escape and raise the alarm at around 3am. The other two men (27 and 26 years) remain missing.
"The Garda Water Unit have arrived at the scene and it is envisaged to begin the search for recovery of bodies," the spokeswoman added yesterday afternoon.
A number of locals assisted the Irish Coast Guard, fire brigade officers and gardai in the search operation yesterday.
A large number of people, including friends of the deceased, gathered along the shoreline as the two bodies were recovered.
Locals yesterday were stunned at the tragedy that struck the rural community over the festive period.
"It's bad, especially with today being Christmas. I didn't know them well, but their friends and relatives have come down here after they heard that a body had been found. It's awful, awful stuff," one man said.