Inquest told there was a cloud over Ballybunion following tragic drownings

Mar 31, 2023 17:03 By radiokerrynews
Inquest told there was a cloud over Ballybunion following tragic drownings Inquest told there was a cloud over Ballybunion following tragic drownings
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An inquest was told there was a cloud over Ballybunion after a brother and sister tragically drowned at the Men’s Beach last year.

The bodies of a man and a woman were recovered from the water in Ballybunion on the evening of August 4th last year.

They were identified as the bodies of 51-year-old Dessie Byrne, of Lecarrow, Co Roscommon, and his 62-year-old sister Muriel Eriksson of Malmo, Sweden.


Muriel Eriksson had been visiting her brother on holidays, and the siblings took off for the day in Mr Byrne’s campervan with his 13-year-old son Josh.

The brother and sister were pronounced dead by 7 o’clock that evening, and an inquest into their deaths took place at Listowel District Court earlier today.

Mr Byrne’s body was spotted floating face down in the water shortly before 6 o’clock that evening, and witnesses described his body as unresponsive, showing no signs of life, with no pulse and his eyes open.


15-year-old Ruairi Walsh from Carrigohane in Cork, who was out surfing, told the inquest he attempted to get the lifeguard’s attention by waving his hands, screaming, and then waving his paddleboard.

Locals spotted the group at the floating body, and assisted in bringing him ashore but attempts to resuscitate were unsuccessful.

The inquest heard there was a strong rip current in front of the castle green that evening.


The inquest heard the beach was "down to four" lifeguards * on duty that day, and the lifeguards’ main duty had been to keep people away from the rip current.

Head lifeguard Dominic Horgan said the red and yellow flags, and the lifeguards' attempts to keep people away from it were the only warnings that there was a rip current.

The lifeguard at the hut on the Men’s Beach gave evidence he only became aware something was wrong when he saw Ruairi Walsh waving his paddleboard from the water, but all lifeguards on duty were in radio communication.


Ruairi Walsh told the inquest he saw a younger teenage boy who looked to be in difficulty earlier but got himself to safety, and this teenager was then seen on his own on the beach looking for his aunt Muriel.

The group that had gathered, by this point including gardaí and the coast guard, became concerned a second person was in the water, and the rescue boat was dispatched.

Garda Omar Fitzell, who was on the rescue boat, said he observed a female face down partially submerged, later identified as Muriel Eriksson.


Pathologist Nollaig Parfrey said in both cases, there were no significant post-mortem findings and this was consistent with drowning.

Coroner Helen Lucey returned a verdict of death by misadventure in both cases, with the cause of death accidental drowning.

She paid tribute to everyone who attempted to resuscitate the two individuals, both of whom had died before they were recovered, and she said there was a cloud over Ballybunion when that happened.

Helen Lucey also made two recommendations following her verdict; that a minimum of five or six lifeguards be present on each beach during peak season, and there be an oral warning to the public from lifeguards that there may be a rip current.

Meanwhile local councillor Robert Beasley said the tragic drowning of the siblings, was a warning that swimmers need to be extra careful of rip currents.

He said there were rip currents off beaches all over Ireland, which would challenge even the strongest swimmers.

Cllr Beasley said it was vital that anyone going into the sea would obey the advice of the life guards:

* Radio Kerry had originally reported 'short four'. This has now been clarified.

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