A small, close-knit community was plunged into grief yesterday evening after news filtered out that Niamh McCarthy had died at Kerry General Hospital in Tralee.
A cloud hung over the 19-year-old’s home village of Minane Bridge, Co Cork, where people were numbed and trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
Niamh had just finished her first year studying biological and chemical science at UCC and had decided to take a break in west Kerry with some friends when a sand dune collapsed on her on Tuesday.
Her parish priest, Fr George Murphy, described Niamh as “a lovely girl who was extremely popular”. Fr Murphy said she had taken a very active role in the local church and had been a member of the church choir for a number of years.
“It is a great shock to all of us. This is a very closeknit community and the McCarthy family are very honourable and decent people who are known and respected by everybody,” Fr Murphy said.
He said Niamh’s father, Tom, often said the readings at Mass and was an avid supporter of the local Tracton GAA Club.
Fr Murphy added that the thoughts of everybody in the small parish were with the McCarthy family and also with Niamh’s close friends who dug her out of the sand dune when it collapsed on top of her.
“It must have been very traumatic for them as well and all our thoughts are with them too.”
Niamh was described as a gifted student who would have excelled at science.
Prior to entering university she had studied at Coláiste Mhuire in Crosshaven where her intellect became apparent.
Mayor of County Cork Tim Lombard, who lives in Minane Bridge, said people couldn’t believe the sad news of her passing.
“As a local I can sense the awful feeling of loss as a result of this tragedy, not only in the McCarthy family but within the entire community. The McCarthy family are very well thought of in this community,” he said.
He said that as the mayor of the county he would meet Niamh’s father almost every day because he works as a senior engineer in the architect’s office at County Hall.
It is understood Tom, his wife, Catherine, and Niamh’s three brothers, Paul, David and Tom Junior, were at her bedside when she died.
“The entire community is absolutely devastated by this,” Mr Lombard said.
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