One person is dead and a second is said to be in critical condition following a maritime tragedy off Kerry.
A major air-to-sea rescue operation has been launched after two people were reported in trouble in the sea off Men’s Beach, Ballybunion in North Kerry on Thursday afternoon.
According to initial reports, one person has died in the incident.
A second victim was reportedly recovered from the water and is being treated by paramedics while being taken to hospital.
According to unconfirmed reports, the two individuals are a man and a woman and part of the same family group.
Locals say it was a sunny day in Ballybunion but a strong breeze made the water choppy and dangerous.
The emergency response involved units from the Irish Coastguard, Gardaí, RNLI, Civil Defense and both the Rescue 115 helicopter based in Shannon and the Air Ambulance based in North Cork.
The Irish Coastguard’s Ballybunion unit, Ballybunion Rescue and the RNLI lifeboat at Cappagh near Kilrush in Co Clare were tasked with the scene.
The alarm was sounded at around 6:30 p.m.
It is understood the initial report to the emergency services indicated two people had gotten into trouble while swimming off Ballybunion beach.
Search and rescue personnel were quickly dispatched to the area.
En route to the scene of the crime across the Shannon Estuary, the Kilrush lifeboat was decommissioned after two people were reported to have been recovered.
One is believed to be in critical condition.
Shortly thereafter, the lifeboat was ordered to turn back and proceed to Ballybunion after the Irish Coastguard received further information suggesting a third person could be missing.
The volunteer lifeboat crew immediately went to the search area off Ballybunion.
The Irish Coastguard helicopter based in Shannon had been on a mission from the Aran Islands to Galway University Hospital when the crew was tasked with the search operation.
Rescue 115 flew direct to Shannon Airport where firefighters were on hand to do a hot refueling.
Hot refueling involves refueling an aircraft while the engines are still running.
After the helicopter was refueled, the crew went straight to the scene to help with the search.
As the operation continued, more information became available to the emergency services suggesting there were only two victims, rather than a third as feared.
Kilrush RNLI Life, via the Rescue 115, have been asked to continue the area and conduct searches as a precaution.
The search and rescue operation was conducted and coordinated by Watch Officers at the Irish Coastguard’s Sea Rescue Sub-Centre on Valentia Island in Kerry.
“Everyone in the community is shocked by what has happened and I send my condolences to the family,” said Robert Beasley, Sinn Fein councillor.
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