A local man who tried to save a teenage girl trapped under a sand dune in Kerry has described how he and her friends dug desperately with their hands to try to save her.
Niamh McCarthy, 19, from Minane Bridge, Co Cork, died yesterday afternoon, 24 hours after a sand dune collapsed on her on the Back Beach in the Maharees, about 40km from Tralee.
She had been on a life support machine in Kerry General Hospital’s intensive care unit, with her family at her bedside.
Ms McCarthy had been holidaying with a group of student friends in a rented house near the beach,having just completed her first year studying biological and chemical science at UCC.
She and her friends had dug a hole in the 12m dune prior to its collapse.
It is understood the group were preparing for an activity which involves digging a hole in a sand dune, then jumping into it from a more elevated position.
Disaster struck when the dune collapsed on Ms McCarthy
While one of her friends ran to search for help, her other friends began to dig frantically.
Local man Aidan O’Connor yesterday told how the panic-stricken woman approached him as he was leaving his home, and told him her friend had been buried in the dune.
He rushed to the scene and joined the others in digging around the hole with their hands.
However, he said that, as they cleared sand from the hole, more kept falling in from the dune above.
Finally, as they were growing more and more weary, other locals arrived with shovels.
After about 30 minutes, the group finally managed to free Ms McCarthy. She received medical attention and was rushed by ambulance to KGH in Tralee.
Her stunned friends, as well as family friends and neighbours from Minane Bridge, maintained a vigil in the hospital and supported Ms McCarthy’s traumatised father, Tom, mother, Catherine, and her three brothers, Paul, David and Tom Jnr.
While gardaí are investigating the young woman’s death, they are treating it as a tragic accident.
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