Body of drowning victim recovered
THE body of a man who drowned after going swimming was recovered from a mountain lake yesterday.
Alan McNeilly (27) was on a day out with his girlfriend at Bangor Erris in north Co Mayo when he got into difficulty in remote waters on Sunday afternoon.
His body was found after an extensive search involving around 100 people, including gardai, sub-aqua divers, local fishery officers and Ballyglass lifeboat volunteers. A coastguard helicopter had to draft the team into the isolated area, which is about 5km from the nearest road.
The eight-metre deep lake, known locally as Stoney Lake, was also partially drained to assist the operation. It is understood the couple had travelled over rough terrain on quad bike to reach the water.
The alarm was raised from the shore by Mr McNeilly's girlfriend, Charlene Barrett, after she lost sight of him. Ms Barrett rang 999 on her mobile phone. The crew of a coastguard helicopter later asked her to light a fire so they could pinpoint her location, which she did using heather and dried grass.
"Charlene had matches and showed great presence of mind in complying with the request of the helicopter crew," Gerry Coyle, a member of Mayo County Council, said.
Despite an intensive search, Mr McNeilly's body lay in the lake overnight. It was recovered by local divers shortly before 10am yesterday. His body was carried down the mountain to Ballymunnelly Church, where the last rites were administered by the parish priest of Kiltane, Fr Brian Conlon.
Members of the young man's family, including his parents, Michael and Mary Kate, and siblings, Gerard, Micheal, John, and Noreen, were present for the brief ceremony.
His devastated girlfriend, a trainee hairdresser, was also present. The victim lived in the nearby townland of Briska, around 20km from Belmullet.