Tragic drowning of nuns at Inch
LOCALS rushed to aid lifeguards and paramedics on Inch Beach on Thursday evening as two nuns lost their lives in one of the worst tragedies in decades at the blue flag facility.
Eye-witnesses at the tragic scene were left traumatised after Tipperary-born Presentation Sisters Imelda Carew (67) and Paula Buckley (70) were pulled from the water but eventually lost their battle for life.
Members of the South East Province of the Presentation Sisters, both were on holiday in Kerry and got into difficulties during an early evening swim at Inch Strand. It is believed that one of the Sisters may have experienced medical difficulties whilst swimming on the beach and the other had gone to her aid - exactly what happened, though, will only be clarified following a post mortem.
The incident occurred at approximately 7pm just as two lifeguards were finishing for the day. Both rushed into the water, which was described as calm, and they were aided by beach-users as they pulled the victims from the sea. Both Sisters were alive when brought to shore but were pronounced dead after being airlifted to Kerry General.
Castlemaine woman Margaret Wrenn was on the beach with her husband just as CPR was being carried out and she praised the efforts of all who frantically tried to save the women.
"There were six to eight people carrying out CPR, they were young people and they never stopped."
Margaret said that lifeguards, paramedics, members of a local surf school and volunteers took it in turn to carry out CPR before the Irish Coastguard helicopter arrived to take them away.
"There were two ambulances and an Irish Coastguard jeep. It was very traumatic but they all stayed calm and continued their efforts for over an hour - they didn't want to let the women go. People were praying and crying, it was very upsetting and very sad but to see the way these young people worked, it was so professional,.
Congregational Leader of the Presentation Sisters Union, Sr Mary Deane, said her community has been stunned by the tragedy.
"Words seem inadequate to express our loss and sorrow as we come to terms with the tragic events that unfolded on a beautiful sunny evening. These two wonderful women have been a source of inspiration and blessing to many people throughout their lives."
Sr Paula Buckley was a native of Camas, near Cashel, and would have celebrated 50 years of religious life on Sunday. She had been involved in secondary teaching and in prison ministry in Dublin and had plans to mark her anniversary with family, sisters and friends early in September.
Sr Imelda Carew was a native of Dundrum, Co Tipperary, who taught in various schools and was very active in the justice ministry throughout Ireland and worldwide.