TWO nuns who died after getting into difficulty while swimming off the Kerry coast have been described as "lovely people" by a friend who knew them both.
The members of the Presentation order were on a late summer trip away when the tragedy occurred yesterday.
One of the nuns had an address in Terenure in Dublin, while the second lived in Clondalkin.
The religious order was today coming to terms with the tragedy.
One member who knew both women, one of whom was in her 60s and the other in her 70s, wept as she described the nuns as "lovely people".
Both women were rescued at Inch Strand after getting into difficulties at around 7pm.
A third woman who was with them raised the alarm and life guards were able to bring the women ashore.
But they were already critically ill.
Ambulance crews raced to the scene outside the village of Annascaul and CPR was performed on the beach by medical staff for more than an hour.
Shocked people out walking the strand looked on as the horror unfolded. The coastguard rescue helicopter was ordered from Shannon, and the nuns were airlifted to hospital in Tralee.
The two women died late last night despite the efforts of the rescue teams.
"I got there when the women had been pulled ashore and they were carrying out CPR. They didn't have a defibrillator at hand but someone was coming up with one from a village four miles up the road," said Mahmood Hussain, owner of Sammy's restaurant located on the beach.
"But an ambulance arrived quite quickly so I'm not sure if it was used in the end.
"I understand they were nuns but they were in their swimming gear when they recovered from the water. It seems they simply got into difficulty but no-one is sure why," he added.
A Valentia Coast Guard spokesman said the women were in "touch and go" condition when taken from the water.
"Both women were swimming at the time. CPR was carried out for over an hour on the beach," he said. "We don't know how long they were out swimming before getting into trouble."
The third woman was being comforted by medical staff at the hospital in Kerry last night.
"Conditions were very good at the time. There was no rip tide or anything like that and the seas were calm," said a Coast Guard spokesman.