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Monday 24 October 2016

Sea search for soldier missing in Donegal called off for night

Greg Harkin

Published 24/08/2016 | 23:00

Searchers scan the sea for signs of the missing man. Photo:
Searchers scan the sea for signs of the missing man. Photo:

A naval dive team and an Air Corps helicopter joined 100 members of the Defence Forces in the search for a missing Army corporal in Donegal today.

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Senior military officials authorised the deployment in Bundoran as a search continued for a second day for the 28-year-old soldier who disappeared while swimming on Tullan Strand in Bundoran on Tuesday evening.

The RNLI and Coast Guard boats continued a search of the waters from 6am to dusk.

The missing man was among a number of soldiers from the 2nd Field Artillery Regiment based at Custume Barracks in Athlone and had been attending a course earlier on Tuesday at Finner Camp, outside Ballyshannon.

Colleagues from the regiment and Defence Forces members the 28th Infantry Battalion at Finner were among the search parties yesterday.

A garda cordon remained at the beach where the corporal from Mullingar and four friends had been swimming around 6pm.

“We are all praying that for the sake of his family and his colleagues in the Defence Forces that the sea will give up his body,” said Philip McGlynn, manager of the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran.

He said that despite it being a warm sunny evening when the incident happened, the sea was dangerous.

“There was a huge swell at the time and really only the very best surfers could cope with the conditions,” he said.

“The RNLI lifeboat was being tossed about and going 15ft into the air on the waves. It was very rough and there are very strong currents underneath the water.”

He praised the emergency services for their response.

“The lifeboat was in the water within eight minutes but sadly in those conditions there was very little that could be done,” said Philip.

“There has been an overwhelming feeling of helplessness among local people. Hundreds of people gathered on the shoreline to help.

“Everyone is naturally very downbeat because of thiss.”

The sea was so rough, the RNLI crew had to be changed after two hours as the volunteers were thrown about the lifeboat during the search.

Defence Forces staff have praised all those involved in the search, calling to the RNLI offices yesterday to personally thank the volunteers there.

“Unfortunately we are involved in a recovery operation now,” said local RNLI volunteer Shane Smyth.

The corporal had been swimming with other soldiers when they got separated in the water.

Two of the Defence Forces members were rescued and treated by ambulance personnel on the beach.

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