Two men believed to be brothers have tragically died in a diving incident at a former quarry in Co Tipperary.
The tragedy happened at the Portroe Dive Centre, at Portroe Quarry, near Nenagh at 1.30pm yesterday.
The bodies of the men were taken to University of Limerick Hospital where post-mortems are expected to take place later.
The victims have been named locally as 42-year-old Fergus Brophy and his 34-year-old brother Philip from Ballybrittas in Co Laois.
A spokesman for the Health and Safety Authority said it is "looking into the circumstances of the tragedy" as it occurred at a workplace.
However, the workplace safety regulator will only be needed if employees of the facility were involved in the incident, a spokesman told the Herald.
A major search and rescue operation swung into action involving gardai and ambulance staff.
An alert went out to members of the Killaloe Coast Guard who were returning to their base after a separate call-out and they responded immediately.
The Coast Guard Search and Rescue Helicopter, which is based at Shannon Airport, was tasked to respond to the emergency alert, but its crew was stood down after the brothers' bodies were recovered and the men were pronounced dead at the scene.
"Gardai attended an incident in Portroe, Co Tipperary, where two males have drowned," a garda spokesman said.
"The males are believed to have been diving when they got into trouble at approximately 1.30pm.
"The bodies of both men have been removed to Limerick University Hospital where post mortems are due to take place."
Garda sources said they were treating the incident as a "tragic accident".
"No one was expecting this," the source said.
"They were experienced divers but what exactly happened I can't say for sure. A lot of divers come from around the country to attend the dive centre in Portroe.
"There are a lot of members locally but a lot of people visit. It's known as a good place to practise diving."
According to reports, one of the men got into difficulty in the water and his sibling entered the water to try to help after raising the alarm.
It is understood that one of the brothers managed to return to the surface of the former slate quarry that is 40m deep but died a short time later.
The other sibling died before he was brought to the surface.
Local Independent councillor Seamus Morris described the incident as "a tragedy for the men's families and all involved at the facility".
"As a dive centre, it's used by local divers and it has always been very professionally run. Obviously, my sympathies go to the men's families and the dive club.
"I don't know what happened but diving is a sport that, unfortunately, has serious consequences if things don't go right," Mr Morris added.
Officials from the dive centre declined to comment last night.
However, in a post on its Facebook page last week the centre, which opened five years ago, announced it was due to reopen on Saturday, after closing in March due to the pandemic.
According to its website, Portroe Quarry is "one of the best inland dive locations in Ireland" and is "always diveable regardless of weather conditions".
Divers accessing Portroe Quarry can explore deep water of up to 40m featuring car wrecks, an underwater pub, construction machinery, stone huts, and a sunken boat, according to the centre.