THE family of a father of two who died on a diving trip with friends have paid special tribute to a "loving man who died doing what he really loved".
Gerry Deane (52), from Castlebar, Co Mayo, was diving with two friends in Killary Bay on the Galway-Mayo border before getting into difficulties as strong winds and heavy showers lashed the coast.
The alarm was raised at about 1.30pm yesterday when Mr Deane failed to surface. He was pulled from the water shortly afterwards and airlifted to Galway University Hospital where he passed away.
Mr Deane's cousin and Castlebar Rugby Club president, Michael Cunningham, described him as a keen fisherman, a diving enthusiast, and someone who "took great pleasure" coaching underage players at the club.
"He was a wonderful guy and he put his heart and soul into everything he did. His daughter had only married during the summer and his mother died six months ago.
"It's such a terrible tragedy," he told the Irish Independent.
"Both of us worked in the council and we were at work this morning at six o'clock. We said we'd see each other on November 9 for a class reunion.
"It would have been such a great night and something we were both really looking forward to. He was only 52 so it's a terrible shock.
"We don't know for sure what happened but the post-mortem should tell a lot.
"He went down with two other guys but when they surfaced, he never surfaced. That's all we know at the moment.
He added: "Fishing was his number one but rugby came in close second.
"He died doing what he loved. He had been diving for many years but had stopped for a while and went back to it in the last two years.
"Apparently the dive this morning was deferred beforehand but he told me it was going ahead and that he was going to head off and do it.
"He really was a great man and will be missed terribly.
"The club would also like to express its deepest sympathies to his wife and children."
Killary Bay is Ireland's only fjord and is a popular diving area, particularly on bank holiday weekends.
Tomorrow night's town council meeting has been adjourned as a mark of respect.