THE school summer holidays turned to tragedy when a schoolboy lost his battle for life after being rescued by helicopter.
Dean Byrne (13) got into difficulty while swimming with friends in the River Suir near Cashel, Co Tipperary, yesterday afternoon.
His friends raised the alarm at 4.15pm and the Coast Guard hurried to the river to rescue the boy. Gardai, the emergency services and a Coast Guard helicopter rushed to Castle Lake Cross on the outskirts of Cashel.
The teenager had been swimming but the current was too strong and swept him away in an area known locally as 'The Straps'.
He was in the water for almost an hour before rescuers managed to pluck him out and winch him into the helicopter.
Coast Guard staff immediately performed CPR on him.
It is understood that the youngster had a pulse and was responsive during some of the journey to Waterford Regional Hospital.
However, shortly after the rescue operation, he was pronounced dead in the hospital.
Dean had only recently started his summer holidays from Cashel Community College where he was a first-year student. The schoolboy was a Manchester United supporter.
South Tipperary TD Tom Hayes, who knew Dean, expressed shock at his death.
"It's an awful tragedy and my heart goes out to his family, it's a huge blow to them," he said last night.
Dean's parents, Liam and Shirley Byrne, from Oliver Plunkett Park in Cashel, were last night being comforted by relatives and friends after their son's death.
"They're a very respectable family, very well known in the area, and this is a terrible tragedy," said a local man.
Dean's grandfather, Eddie Ryan, is an ambulance driver and widely respected in the town.
Cashel residents expressed concerns late yesterday evening when they heard sirens and garda activity in the town.
"Initially we thought there had been a car accident," said local councillor Eoghan Lawrence. "There was a huge amount of garda activity in the area -- there were at least three fire engines, an ambulance, gardai and then a helicopter.
"I knew something awful had happened but when we heard a 13-year-old child had drowned, people were devastated," he said.