The dead couple was in a group that included the woman’s daughter and son-in-law, and the latter couple’s two children. The party was staying in a hotel in Killarney town.
Gardaí were unclear last night as to what caused the accident yesterday in which the tourists, in their 60s, lost their lives, after the traditional horse and trap in which they were travelling suddenly left the road and fell around 20ft.
The couple died instantly on the rocks. The horse, which was injured in the incident, was put down.
The jarvey driver was not injured, but is believed to be very shaken by the incident.
The traditional two-wheeled vehicle has been in use since Victorian times to ferry tourists from Brandon’s Cottage through the dramatic narrow pass in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks to Kate Kearney’s Cottage.
The dead were among a party of friends and family, some of whom probably witnessed what gardaí described as a tragic accident.
It occurred at around 2pm and ambulances and gardaí attended the scene, as did the south Kerry coroner. Kerry Mountain Rescue was called in to assist in the recovery of the bodies.
They were taken by hearse to University Hospital Kerry where post mortems will be carried out today.
The road was closed to facilitate an examination by Garda Forensic Collision Investigators. The Health and Safety Authority was also notified.
Killarney Garda Superintendent Flor Murphy, who attended the scene, said: “This is a very sad and tragic accident and it will be investigated to establish the full circumstances.”
Mayor of Killarney Niall Kelleher said the tragedy had left a dark cloud over the community.
Minister of state for tourism and sport Brendan Griffin, a Kerry TD, offered his condolences to the families of the dead.
“Everyone in Kerry is truly shocked and saddened. I want to offer my sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims at this most distressing time.”
The accident occurred on the way down the Gap, some distance from the locally named Serpent bridge, a high bridge at the apex.
The travelling party was on the way towards Kate Kearney’s Cottage.
It remains unclear exactly what caused the horse to suddenly leave the road and drop to his left.
However, no other vehicle was involved and a collision with the bridge appears to have been ruled out by gardaí. The horse had not bolted, they stressed.
Weather conditions were good at the time and the area — which attracted complaints about traffic and safety from residents as well as visitors last year because of a lack of traffic control — was not busy at the time.
Gardaí are appealing for witnesses to contact Killarney Garda Station on 064 6671160, the Garda Confidential Telephone Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.
In May 2017, an American tourist cycling through the Gap with her husband lost her life in a accident after rounding a bend and colliding with a sheep trailer.