Man tells of his frantic bid to save boy from waves
A MAN has spoken of how he dived into the sea and three times came within inches of grabbing hold of a 10-year-old boy swept away by treacherous currents.
Eugene Sheils was unable to grasp tragic Kyle Roche until east Cork fisherman, Tommy Kennedy, arrived to help him in Youghal Bay.
Neighbours shocked by his death said sports-mad Kyle had dreamed of playing soccer for Ireland.
His mother, Vivienne, had screamed for help as he was swept away in the currents at 5pm on Thursday.
She fainted when his lifeless body was brought on to Youghal Pier 30 minutes later.
Kyle was pronounced dead on admission to Cork University Hospital after being airlifted there by an Irish Coast Guard helicopter.
Mrs Roche was "too devastated" to comment last night, and was comforting Kyle's nine-year-old brother, Dean.
The tragedy unfolded right in front of the mother of four, her husband Dean and Mr Sheils as they enjoyed the sun on Youghal beach.
Local man Mr Sheils said around a dozen people had risked their lives swimming into the powerful currents in a bid to save Kyle off Moll Goggin's Corner.
"I ran up the road, climbed down the rocks and dived in," he said. "There were no splashes or hands waving. What I did see from the top of the road was what looked like a body under the water.
"I was screaming at people above to give me directions after I dived in. Some of the rescuers went up towards the diving rock.
"I know this area very well. It is normally a very safe place to swim, but when the tide is shooting in or emptying it fills very fast and the sea can be treacherous."
Mr Sheils dived three times under the water and came within inches of Kyle, but could not reach him because of the swirling currents.
"I grew up swimming around the diving rocks," he added. "I started swimming back and forth in the chance that Kyle could be there. I thought I saw something underneath the water. I dived but he was gone.
"I was looking around and the next thing I definitely saw a body. I dived again, but the current out there is savage strong. It is swirling around.
"When I dived again he was gone. I just couldn't get to him. A good friend of mine, fisherman Tommy Kennedy, then came in close to where I was.
"Tommy spotted him. He leaned over the side and caught him by the arm and brought him up."
Mr Sheils said he feared Kyle at that stage did not have a chance.
Youghal native Jim Daly, who went to the pier yesterday to say prayers for the Roche family, said he understood their grief – his 15-year-old nephew, Pat, died in a jet-ski accident at the same spot in 2003.
"I know the pain they are going through because we went through the same agony 10 years ago," he said.
"It is absolutely devastating to have to deal with the death of a young person. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Vivienne and her family."
Bunscoil Mhuire chairman Ned Brennan said all involved at the school were numbed by the tragedy. Both Kyle and Dean were due to start fourth class in September.
"Kyle was just a wonderful young boy," he said. "He was a very friendly, happy and well-behaved child.
"His junior infants' teacher, Marian Leamy, was telling me this morning that Kyle was an absolute joy to have in the class."
"The whole school community is devastated by what has happened."
Witness Trevor Nangle said people were openly sobbing on Youghal's beaches and quays as word of the tragedy spread through the town.
Former mayor Mary Lenihan Foley, a personal friend of the Roche family, said the entire community was devastated.
"There is a Queen of the Sea festival on this weekend and, to be honest, everyone was looking forward to it, but we are all heartbroken.
"There is a dark cloud hanging over the area."
The festival opened last night with a minute's silence, and a wreath was placed in the sea near where Kyle's body was recovered.