THE family of heroic student Barry Davis Ryan (20) paid an emotional thanks to search officials who defied stormy conditions to recover his body 11 days after he drowned.
The young man's body was located in a deep kelp rock bed in waters off East Hole, Baltimore in West Cork shortly before noon yesterday.
Mr Davis Ryan's body was located and successfully recovered just two hours before divers were to scale down their operation in light of a major deterioration in weather conditions.
His body was found during the last dive of the day after two divers spotted something on the seabed.
His remains were taken to Baltimore RNLI station in a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) with four other boats acting as a guard of honour.
The remains were blessed by a priest before being removed for formal identification and a post mortem examination.
Irish Coastguard, RNLI and recovery divers then formed a special guard of honour as the hearse left the village.
Members of the Ryan family, including his mother Ann Davis, and an uncle met with dive officials to offer their personal thanks for everything that was done to recover the young man's body over the past 11 days.
Baltimore RNLI coxswain Kieran Cotter said the response to the search campaign since June 30 was "absolutely overwhelming".
A total of 122 volunteers, 65 experienced recovery divers and 57 support officials had undertaken an exhaustive search programme since Wednesday night to exploit a favourable weather window. Dives previously had to be suspended for five days because of the weather.
Divers worked a grid pattern search area off East Hole, Baltimore, where Mr Davis Ryan, his father, Barry Ryan (51), and girlfriend, Niamh O'Connor (20) drowned 11 days ago.
The father and son drowned in a brave but doomed bid to save Ms O'Connor who had been swept into the sea as the family group enjoyed an evening coastal stroll.
The alarm was raised by Mr Ryan's daughter, Charlotte (14), a sister of Mr Davis Ryan, who was onshore.
The bodies of both Mr Ryan and Ms O'Connor were recovered within minutes of the tragedy occurring but there had been no trace until lunchtime yesterday of Mr Davis Ryan's remains. West Cork Dive Rescue (WCDR) official, John Kearney, who had helped co-ordinate the massive search operation, said everyone was relieved there was a successful outcome.
"Everyone knows how much it means to a family to have the remains of a loved one returned to them from the sea and we're all simply relieved that we were able to help do that for them," he said.
Mr Kearney paid tribute to the divers who had travelled to Baltimore from all over Ireland to help in the search operation.
Irish Underwater Council (IUC) diver, Paddy Agnew, said every diver was proud to have been able to do something for the grieving family.
"It was very hard diving, very hard terrain, but eventually it paid off. The result came in, the wind was starting to get up and the swell was coming in so it made conditions even worse," he said.
Mr Ryan and Mr Davis Ryan are the son and grandson of Penney's founder, Arthur Ryan (80).