Saturday 3 December 2016

Warnings over strong currents after nuns drowned

Published 26/09/2015 | 02:30

Sr Imelda Carew who died after getting into difficulty in the water at Inch Beach, Co Kerry
Sr Imelda Carew who died after getting into difficulty in the water at Inch Beach, Co Kerry
Tragedy: Sr Paula Buckley who died after getting into difficulty in the water at Inch Beach, Co Kerry

Two elderly nuns who died tragically in a double drowning while on holiday had only entered the water minutes before they got into difficulty.

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Sister Imelda Carew (67) and Sister Paula Buckley (70) both died of acute cardiac and respiratory failure due to accidental drowning, an inquest into their deaths heard.

The Presentation sisters had been holidaying in Co Kerry and had gone for a swim in one of the county's most popular beaches at Inch Strand on the Dingle Peninsula when tragedy struck.

Sr Mary Hanrahan, who lived with Sr Paula in Clondalkin, had been watching her friends from the shoreline when they decided to go for a swim at around 6.45pm on August 14 last year.

Sr Hanrahan told Tralee Coroner's Court she became concerned when she lost sight of her friends, whom she knew were not strong swimmers, and alerted lifeguard Hugh Stewart.

"The lifeguard assured me there was nothing to worry about because the sea was calm," she told the court.

She saw something floating in the water and realised it was a body. She then saw a second body.

"When they were taken from the water, I realised they were my friends," she said.

Surfer Ciaran Kelliher said he had noticed two elderly women outside of the breakwater. They were out of their depth, but seemed comfortable. He later saw their bodies in the sea.

Mr Stewart and another lifeguard Darragh Harkin brought the bodies ashore and started CPR, assisted by members of the public, including nurse Erin Cullinane and a Spanish tourist.

Mr Stewart called for someone to bring the defibrillator from Annascaul, a village about 8km away.

The first ambulance arrived around 20 minutes later and efforts continued to resuscitate the nuns. They were airlifted to Kerry General Hospital where they were pronounced dead.

The jury at the inquest requested a rider or recommendation that Kerry County Council would erect visible signage at the beach warning of strong currents.

Juror Mick O'Connell, who is from the area, said Inch beach had claimed between 10 to 12 lives and although locals were aware of this, the general public wasn't. Since their deaths, members of their families and the local community have funded two defibrillators.

Irish Independent

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