Beach horror as two nuns die in swimming accident
TWO nuns who got into difficulty while swimming off the Kerry coast have died despite the frantic efforts of rescue teams.
The women, one in her 60s and the other in her 70s, were from the Presentation Order.
Both were rescued at Inch Strand after getting into difficulties at around 7pm.
They have been identified as Sister Imelda Carew and Sister Paula Buckley, members of the South East province of the Presentation Sisters.
Sr Paula Buckley (70), from Camas, Co Tipperary, was about to celebrate 50 years of religious life later this month.
She had plans to mark this event with family, sisters and friends early in September.
She is survived by her sister Marie, brother in law, nephews and nieces.
Sr Imelda Carew, 67, a native of Kilmore near Dundrum, Co Tipperary.
She is survived by a wide extended family including Sr Olivere who is a member of the Presentation community in Dungarvan.
Both women were very active in teaching in schools in the south east of the countrey.
"We are all stunned and shocked by this tragedy. Words seem inadequate to express our loss and sorrow as we come to terms with the tragic events that unfolded on a beautiful sunny evening," said Sister Mary Deane, the congregational leader of the Presentation Sisters Union.
"It is a tragic loss for all of us and for their families. These two wonderful women have been a source of inspiration and blessing to many people throughout their lives.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, communities and friends of our beloved sisters at this time."
A third woman who was with them raised the alarm and life guards were able to bring the women ashore.
But they were already critically ill.
Ambulance crews raced to the scene outside the village of Annascaul and CPR was performed on the beach by medical staff for more than an hour.
Shocked people out walking the strand looked on as the horror unfolded.
The coastguard rescue helicopter was ordered from Shannon, and the nuns were airlifted to Kerry General Hospital in Tralee.
The two women died late last night despite the efforts of the rescue teams.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath said he was shocked and saddened by the sudden and tragic deaths.
"It is indeed a tragic loss," he said.
"Sisters Carew and Buckley have been a source of inspiration and blessing to many people throughout their lives, in their ministries and communities which encompassed the dioceses of Cashel and Emly, Ossory, Waterford and Lismore, Ferns and some of the diocese of Dublin."
Mr McGrath offered his sympathy to their families and the Presentation Sisters.
"My thoughts and prayers are with them at this sad time," he said.
"I got there when the women had been pulled ashore and they were carrying out CPR. They didn't have a defibrillator at hand but someone was coming up with one from a village four miles up the road," said Mahmood Hussain, owner of Sammy's restaurant located on the beach.
"But an ambulance arrived quite quickly so I'm not sure if it was used in the end.
"I understand they were nuns but they were in their swimming gear when they recovered from the water. It seems they simply got into difficulty but no-one is sure why.
"My restaurant is located directly on the beach but there were just a few people around at the time."
A Valentia Coast Guard spokesman said the women were in "touch and go" condition when taken from the water.
"Both women were swimming at the time. CPR was carried out for over an hour on the beach," he said. "We don't know how long they were out swimming before getting into trouble."
The third woman was being comforted by medical staff at the hospital in Kerry last night.
It's understood all three were on holidays in the area and had decided to go for a late evening swim.
"There were two ambulances at the scene and the Coast Guard helicopter," a local man told the Irish Independent.
"Someone who works in the area confirmed to me that both ladies were nuns. He said they were struggling in the water a long time before help arrived."
"Conditions were very good at the time. There was no rip tide or anything like that and the seas were calm," said a Valentia Coast Guard spokesman.
Sr Paula’s life will be celebrated at requiem mass in Cashel Parish Church at 12 noon on Tuesday 19 August followed by burial in Ardmayle Cemetery.
A requiem mass for Sr Imelda will be held at 3pm on Sunday 17 August in Mountmellick Parish Church followed by burial at Mountmellick Cemetery.