The heartbroken family of a hero garda who died in a diving tragedy off the Wexford coast said they took comfort from the fact nine people were alive today because of his remarkable courage.
Father of four Garda Dave Hearne (46) died on Saturday after a freak accident while he was off-duty and engaged in a recreational dive off Hook Head. He died from a suspected case of the 'bends', or decompression sickness.
His mother Gemma told the Irish Independent her son had grown up with their family home a hub of life-saving activity thanks to her husband, Declan (80), being involved with rescue work in Wexford.
Ms Hearne said they had been devastated to learn of Saturday's fatal accident.
"It is every parent's worst nightmare. We are all absolutely heartbroken," she said.
"He [Dave] was the most unassuming man you could ever meet - he was so humble about his work and the things he would do. But he loved his job and being able to help people," she added.
Garda Hearne will be buried today after 2pm requiem Mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Duncannon, Co Wexford.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and children, Dylan, Toby, Noah and Libby, his parents Gemma and Declan, and his siblings Brid, Maeve and Declan.
Tributes to Garda Hearne were led by Irish Bravery Awards Council (IBAC) chairman Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD who noted that the garda followed in the brave footsteps of his father, who was also honoured for his courage in 1958.
Garda Hearne received a bravery certificate from the IBAC in 2016.
"That was him - he never thought of himself but always of others," Ms Hearne said.
"We were told that he had saved the lives of nine people. So of course we are very proud that people are alive today because of him," she added.
She said her family was "deeply moved" by the tributes paid to her son by his rescue service colleagues.
Last night, Garda Representative Association (GRA) president Jim Mulligan paid special tribute, saying: "David was regarded as a hero for his work as a Garda diver, earning bravery awards for saving many lives."