Yesterday was a “heavy day” in Baltimore.
Heavy with disbelief, heavy with sadness and shock.
The West Cork village is just getting into the swing of the tourist season and, yet in a matter of moments on Tuesday evening, three people lost their lives — victims of the sea and the rocky shoreline that draws people to this beautiful part of the world.
The search effort ran all day, concentrating on an area of shoreline near Baltimore’s eyecatching Beacon known as the eastern hole.
It was there on Tuesday evening that the bodies of Barry Ryan and Niamh O’Connor were taken from the water not long after the alarm had been raised by Mr Ryan’s daughter.
Initially it was thought that the party of four were walking in the area, but it emerged yesterday they may have been fishing at what was a known fishing spot.
The search continued from dawn until around 8pm yesterday for Mr Ryan’s son, Barry Davis Ryan, who was Ms O’Connor’s boyfriend.
It is understood that, at around 6.30pm on Tuesday, Ms O’Connor was hit by a wave and entered the water.
It is understood Barry Davis Ryan then entered the water in an effort to save his girlfriend.
At that point, Barry Ryan, possibly conscious of the lack of mobile phone signal on the rocky shoreline, sent his teenage daughter, Charlotte, to get help.
She ran up the hill towards the Beacon and, once there, set about raising the alarm.
She managed to borrow a phone from some tourists and made the 999 call which was dispatched through to Valentia Coast Guard.
Those efforts and that of the emergency response teams were the subject of praise from people in Baltimore and beyond yesterday.
One members of the search team, Eamonn Barry of the West Cork Underwater Search and Rescue took part in two dives before 12pm yesterday.
“There is still a bit of a swell into the gullies where we are going,” he said, adding that the terrain was rocky and the search area was being extended. “We’re trying to cover as much ground as we can.”
Mr Barry was due out again on a fresh search yesterday evening, as was Kieran Cotter, coxswain of the RNLI all-weather lifeboat, which was first on the scene on Tuesday night.
Another member of the lifeboat crew working on Monday was Tom Bushe.
“We were there in 10 minutes,” he recalled.
On what might have happened, he said: “They’re not freak waves. They happen all the time.
However, Mr Bushe added a caveat known all too well to the people of Baltimore.
“It’s deceiving because it looks calm here,” he said, looking out at the glassy waters in front of the village. “People don’t realise there might be a sea outside.”
The inshore boat took one person from the water, the all-weather another, before both were treated on the all-weather vessel.
CPR began and continued without a break.
The casualties were taken to the main pier where Jason van der Velde of West Cork Rapid Response was joined in the efforts to sustain Mr Ryan and Ms O’Connor by three local GPs.
Dr van der Velde said: “We don’t stop until we are absolutely certain there is no chance of resuscitation.
“The whole team was phenomenal. The RNLI guys were superb — they are a real credit to the community, they were doing everything right. It gave us hope we could resuscitate them.”
ASECOND Coast Guard helicopter was on standby right next to the RNLI Lifeboat station in Baltimore if either casualty needed to be airlifted to hospital, but both were pronounced dead.
Autopsies will ultimately determine the cause of death but one possibility was that Mr Ryan and Ms O’Connor suffered a cardiac event from cold shock caused by immersion in the water.
At one point, as many as 60 people were involved in the search yesterday which concentrated on the shoreline near where the trio had entered the water and where Mr Ryan and Ms O’Connor had been found.
All morning, Irish naval dive teams combed the area, as did crews from the coastguard and units from the RNLI Lifeboat out of Toe Head/Glandore and Baltimore.
The coastguard helicopter from Waterford was a constant presence.
However, while conditions in the morning and early afternoon were favourable and vastly improved on those faced by search teams on Tuesday night, by mid-afternoon fog and rain had entered the scene, further complicating the search for Mr Davis Ryan, before the air cleared a little again.
As the search efforts continued, life went on as usual in Baltimore. French tourists chatted in the bars, drinking their pints at a slow rate so the rings showed in the glass.
Teenagers ran along the grass bank near the pier, people sipped their coffees looking out at the water, and one man busied himself by touching up the paint on the name of his boat.
But it was a strange day, and one that won’t be quickly forgotten.
As Cork county councillor Joe Carroll put it: “When a small community gets a belt like this, everyone is taken aback.”
It’s calm and deceiving. People don’t realise there’s a sea outside