AN islands campaigner has died in a drowning tragedy while harvesting shellfish.
She was named locally as Kay Mullins (41) from Bere Island, west Cork. It is believed she was swept off rocks on the island by a freak wave while she was collecting cockles and periwinkles yesterday.
The alarm was raised after Ms Mullins, whose brother also lives on the island, did not turn up to collect a friend's child from a local creche.
Fears for her safety heightened when her 4x4 was found parked near the shore and an air and sea search was launched shortly before 4pm.
The Shannon-based Irish Coastguard Sikorsky helicopter began sweeps of the area and her body was recovered a short distance offshore at 5.30pm on the north side of the island known as Bracklagh by the Castletownbere RNLI unit.
A coastguard spokesman said Ms Mullins was very familiar with the island.
It is thought she may have struck her head as she fell into the sea and was unable to scramble back to shore. Weather conditions at the time were described as quite difficult, with strong winds and rain.
The coastguard unit that found her body was making its first operational sortie from the base that Ms Mullins had helped to raise funds for.
A post mortem examination is expected to be carried out today to determine the cause of death, but it is being described as a tragic accident.
Ms Mullins lived all her life on Bere and was deeply involved in island development work. She was a member of the Bere Island women's poetry and literary group.
Cork South West TD Noel Harrington (FG), who hails from the small island in Bantry Bay, said the islanders – who number less than 200 – were shocked and saddened by Ms Mullins' death.