TWO people died and a third person is missing feared downed after a tragic coastal accident in west Cork.
A family’s decision to go for an evening seaside stroll along the rocks near the Beacon, outside Baltimore in west Cork, ended in tragedy when the group were apparently swept into the sea by a freak wave.
The trio, two from Baltimore and a third from Cork city, comprised a father in his late 50s, his son and the son’s girlfriend, both in their 20s.
It is understood the man’s daughter was also with the group when the accident occurred.
However, she was not swept into the sea and managed to scramble to safety to raise the alarm shortly before 6pm.
The shocked teen was being comforted last night by family and friends.
A huge rescue operation was launched which involved both the Irish Coastguard’s Waterford and Shannon-based Sikorsksy helicopters.
It was supported by three RNLI units including the Baltimore lifeboat and the Union Hall craft.
The Irish Coastguard’s Toe Head rescue unit as well as the Schull community rescue boat were also deployed.
The middle-aged man and the young woman were recovered from the sea a short time later.
Both were given emergency medical treatment at the scene and then air-lifted in a critical condition to Cork University Hospital (CUH) by Irish Coastguard helicopter.
Both were pronounced dead a short time later.
A second Irish Coastguard helicopter commenced sweeps of the coast for the young man who was still missing including the use of special infra-red cameras to detect body heat.
Divers also attended the scene and began a careful examination of waters near where the accident occurred.
The search has been now been called off for the night and will resume at first light.
Locals described the incident as “a heartbreaking tragedy.”
The area is a renowned local beauty spot which is popular with both anglers and walkers.
Irish Coastguard support personnel were deployed to Baltimore to co-ordinate the search and recovery operation.
Both local fishermen and Naval Service units are also standing by to support the search operation.
One Baltimore RNLI volunteer, who asked to be unnamed, described the incident as “truly shocking.”
“Weather conditions were quite good down here at the time but the sea can be so very dangerous,” he said.
At least six people have drowned over recent years in Cork and Kerry as they engaged in rock fishing or walked along exposed coastal areas.
Two Dutch nationals drowned in February 2014 in west Cork when they were swept into the sea by a freak wave.