One of the men in Mayo river tragedy had lost a sister to drowning
The drowning of Declan Davitt, along with his friend Martin Needham in Louisburgh, Co Mayo, is the second drowning tragedy to hit his family in the space of seven years.
Declan (26) drowned with Martin (27) in the early hours of Christmas morning when the 4X4 vehicle they were in became submerged in water as they tried to cross the Carrowniskey river near Louisburgh.
Declan's sister Kathleen, also aged 26, drowned in another tragedy off the west coast seven years ago. Her funeral also took place during Christmas week, according to shocked locals.
Kathleen, who had been living in the Monivea area of Galway, had been missing for more than a week when her body was recovered on the shoreline between Oranmore and Roscam. She had disappeared on December 7, 2010.
Emergency services were alerted to the horrific tragedy at the Carrowniskey River at 3am on Christmas morning when one of the occupants of the vehicle managed to escape.
Tom McGreil (19) managed to raise the alarm and gardaí and the coastguard were involved in the search for Declan and Martin on Christmas Day.
The bodies of the two men were brought from the water at around 4pm.
Martin and Declan had both spent time in New Zealand in recent years, but had come home and worked as sheep farmers. Martin was renting a farm and rearing sheep, carrying out fencing work as well.
Declan had remained longer in New Zealand but had also returned home, making a living from sheep.
They were also both involved in their local Macra na Feirme.
Its chairman, Colm Clarke, posted a poignant message on social media, describing the feelings of the local community in the wake of the tragedy.
"I'll miss you Martin and Declan - two sound men, lived most of their lives in each other's pockets, where you would see one the other was never far away," he posted.
"As tragically was the case today too. No sooner as had we Martin recovered and Declan wasn't far away.
"RIP, lads, you've both left a huge void in all our lives and it was an honour to have known you both. Slán, boys."
Local sources say it was initially believed that Martin and Declan's bodies were in the vehicle when it was found.
However,when it was brought to the surface, their bodies were not it. "The windows were down, so it looks like they made it out of the jeep but then got swept away by the current," said one man.
"Poor Tom McGreil risked his life to go back into the water after he escaped but the current was too strong."
The river flows into a lake before running to sea. It was in the lake that the bodies were discovered, very close to each other.
"Declan, Martin and Tom had been out with another lad and had dropped him home. It was when they were on their way home the tragedy happened," said the local man.
"The river crossing is down a kind of boreen and it is a spot the lads would know well.
"But the level of the water rises and falls, depending on the rainfall, and it would be more difficult to gauge it at night."
Martin's funeral will be held at noon tomorrow at the Church of the Holy Family, Killeen.
Declan's funeral will be held at noon on Friday at the same church.