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Planning to cool off at the beach? Then beware of the dangers of the water

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The scene at Ballybunion after brother and sister Dessie Byrne and Muriel Eriksson drowned in an incident just off the Kerry coast. Photo: Domnick Walsh

The scene at Ballybunion after brother and sister Dessie Byrne and Muriel Eriksson drowned in an incident just off the Kerry coast. Photo: Domnick Walsh

The scene at Ballybunion after brother and sister Dessie Byrne and Muriel Eriksson drowned in an incident just off the Kerry coast. Photo: Domnick Walsh

The devastating events in Ballybunion last week where a courageous brother died alongside the sister he was desperately trying to save in the sea off Kerry have emphasised the urgency behind renewed calls for greater awareness of the potential danger of the water.

Kerry rescue officials described the tragedy as the worst swimming-related accident in the area for over 30 years.

And as the country gears up for a week-long heatwave with temperatures forecast to nudge 30C water safety needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

With every spell of hot weather comes the tragic rise in drownings as more and more people are drawn to water-based activities in sometimes treacherous seas.

Last month, three people tragically lost their lives in water-related deaths within a week as a spell of good weather gripped the country.

Bradley Lulendo (14) from Dublin, was swimming in the sea on July 11 with a friend at Burrow Beach on the Howth peninsula when he got into difficulty and later died.

The next day father-of-four Patrick McCarthy (41) died after getting into difficulty while swimming at Fanore beach, Co Clare, with a young child who miraculously survived the incident.

Michael Timmons (60s) died after he got into difficulty while swimming at Derryounce Lake in Portarlington, Co Laois, days later, on July 16.

An average of 110 drownings occur in Ireland every year the vast majority in local rivers and lakes.

August is typically the month with the highest number of accidental drownings, and almost 80pc are men.

Roger Sweeney, CEO of Water Safety Ireland, warned that many people emerging from a pandemic have not had swimming lessons since the Covid outbreak, with many taking to the water for the first time since 2019. “People tend to overestimate their ability and underestimate the risk, even in lifeguarded waterways,” he said.

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Met Éireann has forecast “heatwave conditions” for this week, starting on Wednesday, and has issued a rare “heat stress” advisory for particularly the more vulnerable but also warned of the risk of “water-related incidents”.

Ireland could see temperatures top 28C on Thursday and Friday across many areas as a high-pressure zone will deliver Mediterranean-style weather for the next 10 days.

Those seeking to cool off at the beach need to respect the water. The Irish Coast Guard and Water Safety Ireland have appealed to people to take every precaution when enjoying water sports.

These include swimming only in areas supervised by lifeguards, never swimming alone, familiarising yourself with the area you are swimming in and never allowing children to use inflatable toys in the water.

There’s no doubt that targeted attention on all aspects of unseen dangers can have a real impact and hopefully avoid more tragedy.


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