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Tragic Jill (14) was hit by second wave as friends made their way out of sea

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Family members of 14-year-old Jill Amante including her mother Mercy, centre, with aunt Jemima Sackey and her father Alex at their home in Drogheda. Photo: Mick O’Neill

Family members of 14-year-old Jill Amante including her mother Mercy, centre, with aunt Jemima Sackey and her father Alex at their home in Drogheda. Photo: Mick O’Neill

Family members of 14-year-old Jill Amante including her mother Mercy, centre, with aunt Jemima Sackey and her father Alex at their home in Drogheda. Photo: Mick O’Neill

The devastated family of a 14-year-old girl who drowned off Seapoint Beach in Co Louth during the hot weather wept yesterday as they told how she was swept away in a riptide.

Jill Amante, a second-year student at Ballymakenny College in Drogheda, was swimming with two friends last Friday when a wave hit.

Speaking at the family's home in Aston village, Jill's mum Mercy, dad Alex and aunt Jemima sobbed as they told how Jill's pals told them what happened.

"They said the first wave hit them hard so they decided to get out of the water," Jemima said.

"The three of them were making their way back to the shore and Jill was the one furthest behind. But as they were getting out, Jill was hit by a second wave that took her back into the water. Her friends didn't realise at first Jill hadn't made it out, they looked around them but they couldn't see her. And when they realised, that's when they called to the lifeguard but it was too late."

Mercy revealed how days earlier, Jill had begun teaching other children Bible classes at the Presbyterian Church.

"She was such a happy child," said Jemima.

"She would come to church on Friday and Saturday night and had just started reading the Bible to the other children."

Alex described his daughter as a lovely, happy girl who was always laughing and dancing.

"She was dancing and singing but a very respectful girl and a credit to her mum," he said.

"We were here when the police came and said they needed Mercy to come to the hospital to identify Jill. Jill had been back at the house around noon and said she was going to the beach with her friends from the school.

"There were five of them and they went up together. She said she would see us later and that she would be back soon."

Jemima said the family had spoken with the children who were with Jill.

"They told us how she was taken by the second wave," she said. "They took her out of the water by helicopter but she had already passed away… she had already died. She was a lovely special child."

The Amante family, originally from Ghana, moved to Ireland 16 years ago.

"Jill was born here and her accent was so Irish sometimes even I couldn't understand her," Alex said.

The Irish Coastguard said emergency services were alerted to a swimmer who was in difficulty at the beach in Termonfeckin around 3pm last Friday. A spokesperson said it "seemed she was caught up in a rip tide".

Two lifeboats, from Skerries and Clogherhead, were launched and a coastguard helicopter also joined the search. Jill was airlifted by coastguard helicopter to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, where she was pronounced dead.

Beachgoer and father-of-two Kevin Beirth said the sea had been unusually choppy for Seapoint.

"I was here at the beach yesterday with the girls when I saw the two coast-guard jeeps parked about 50 metres apart down by the water.

"The next thing the helicopter arrived and circled a couple of times before lifting a girl out of the water.

"She was literally only about 20 yards away from where the second jeep was parked."

"There were a couple of hundred people on the beach at the time because the weather was so good.

"It's just a shocking tragedy … yesterday the waves here were unusually big and they were coming in with a lot of velocity."

Sunday Independent