TWO friends are feared to have drowned when one apparently went to help the other after they were struck by freak waves and 130kph winds while walking along an exposed west Cork peninsula.
A major search operation off the Sheep's Head peninsula yesterday resulted in one body being recovered. The search for the second person is ongoing.
The men – named locally as Dutch national Roland Decker (32) and a 31-year-old German friend – flew into Cork last week from Amsterdam for a break in Kilcrohane village.
Mr Decker's mother owns a holiday property just outside the village. She spoke to them by phone on Saturday and learned of their plan to walk to a local lighthouse, where it is understood they hoped to take photos of the stormy seas.
Mrs Decker became concerned when she was unable to contact her son on Saturday evening and again on Sunday.
The alarm was raised at 11.30pm when it was discovered that the men were missing from the house, with their car parked outside and all their possessions inside including identity papers and wallets.
A major search operation was launched involving the Coast Guard, the Castletownbere RNLI, gardai, West Cork Coast Rescue and local fishermen.
Neighbour Gerry Daly said the men had come to check on the family's exposed property.
"It's so sad that they were probably washed off with the severe storm on Saturday," he said.
"It was terrible. I could see from my farmland above and it was severe. They were a very friendly family – they mixed with the locals and went into the local pubs."
Supt Mick Fitzpatrick said the search operation would resume at first light.
Gardai are acting on the theory that one or both men got into difficulty with freak waves or winds near the lighthouse and were swept into the sea.