Trapped sand dune student Niamh McCarthy loses fight for life after rescue
A YOUNG student who was injured in a freak accident in sand dunes while on holiday has died in hospital.
Niamh McCarthy (19), from Minane Bridge, Carrigaline, Co Cork, died in Kerry General Hospital yesterday afternoon surrounded by her family.
Her distraught parents, Tom and Catherine, and three brothers rushed to be at her bedside following the accident on the beach in Kilshannig on the Maherees near Castlegregory, Co Kerry, on Tuesday afternoon.
The first-year student at University College Cork (UCC) had been enjoying a holiday with eight friends when the tragedy struck.
Niamh fell into a hole they had dug in the sand dune, which then collapsed.
Witnesses say she was buried for up to 20 minutes.
Her friends, who had been renting a house in the Maherees, maintained a vigil at the hospital.
The talented student, who got eight straight As in the Leaving Cert last year, had been friends with some of the group since primary school and throughout their time in secondary school in Colaiste Mhuire in Crosshaven.
Frantic efforts to resuscitate the young woman failed and she was transferred by ambulance to hospital where she remained in the intensive care unit.
The tight-knit south Cork parish of Minane Bridge was in shock yesterday following the freak accident.
Parish priest Fr George Murphy said he had asked the community for their prayers for both for Niamh and her family.
"It is a terrible tragedy and we can only offer our prayers to the family," he said. "The McCarthys are a highly respected family and I'm sure that the community will rally around them in their hour of darkness.
"There is a real community spirit here both emotionally and spiritually. I know that Niamh will be in everyone's prayers and thoughts."
Fine Gael councillor Tim Lombard -- a long-time friend of Niamh's father -- said people were absolutely heartbroken by what happened.
"The McCarthys are a lovely family and one of the pillars of the community here," he said.
"They are involved in almost every aspect of community life and, in particular, the church choir.
"Everyone's thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time. It is just unbelievable," he said.
Niamh was an award-winning Leaving Cert student, with chemistry her particular forte.
She only just completed her first-year studies at UCC earlier this month and was in Kerry for a short break with friends and college classmates.
She has three brothers -- one of one is understood to have flown in from abroad to be at her bedside in hospital.
Her mother, Catherine, sings with the Minane Bridge choir; while her father, Tom, is a senior engineering official with Cork County Council.
Meanwhile, the Maherees, the holiday home that had rocked with laughter and fun only a day earlier, was silent yesterday.
A neighbour told the Irish Independent how the sounds of laughter had emanated from the house on Monday night as the group enjoyed a barbecue in the evening sunshine.
"The whole community has been numbed by the tragedy. There was just such happiness and joy coming from that house it's absolutely heartbreaking," he said.
Local people had valiantly helped in the rescue effort when Niamh's friends first raised the alarm after she got into difficulty. The Maherees is off the regular tourist track and many of its visitors have a close association with the area and return each year.
One of Niamh's friends was a regular visitor to the area and that's why the group chose the west Kerry seaside village as their destination to celebrate the end of their first year in college before they took up summer jobs.