A young man tragically died after suffering head injuries from a fall into a blowhole from cliffs near Garretstown beach in Co Cork last night.
22-year-old Conor King, a Munster Technological University student from Douglas in Cork city, was part of a group of more than 10 people who were camping on the beach close to the Old Head of Kinsale.
It was a busy day at the beach with numerous families and groups of young people socialising.
However, conditions grew rougher throughout the day and there was a notable swell in the high waters.
The tragic incident occurred in an area with a known blowhole on a cliff with multiple ravines and deep crevices.
Multiple agencies including local fire services, gardaí, and the coast guard attended the scene after the alarm was raised at 11.30pm.
Rescue divers recovered the 22-year-old’s body from the water which was later removed to Cork University Hospital (CUH) where a post mortem is to take place.
A 23-year-old friend of the young man who went to his assistance but became trapped was later rescued by the divers. That young man, believed to be from Glanmire, is now recovering in hospital after receiving treatment for suspected hypothermia.
A coast guard helicopter, Rescue 115, tasked to respond, was stood down before it reached the scene.
Coast guard crew from the Seven Heads Coast Guard unit attended the incident.
Speaking about the incident, Coast Guard spokesperson Gerard O'Flynn said: "The report was that a man got into a difficulty.
"A young man who appeared to have fallen into a blowhole. The depth was believed to be approximately to be 20 feet.
"Valentia alerted rescue services and sometime after midnight the body of a man was recovered.
"And another a colleague of his who was endeavouring to render assistance was also recovered from the scene and he was transported into the care of the HSE."
Dr Dan Collins, the academic administration and student affairs manager at MTU, said the thoughts of everyone at the university are with Mr King’s family and friends, and with the man who tried to save him, who is recovering in hospital.
“Our thoughts are with Conor’s family and friends, as well as with his classmates at the University and our colleagues in the Department and at the Faculty,” he said.
He told staff that he spoke with a member of the emergency services who tended at the scene and passed on the thoughts of the university to her and her colleagues.
And he said the university’s chaplaincy, pastoral care, and counselling teams, as well as the Students Union, are on standby to provide whatever support they can to anyone affected by the tragedy.
Local independent councillor Alan Coleman said residents in the area are shocked by the fall and has described the incident as “a real tragedy”.
Expressing his sympathies to the young man’s family and friends, Mr Coleman said he knew people previously have fallen into the blowhole at different tide levels but that this was the first fatality.
He said the blowhole is well-known in the locality and is visible in clear conditions.
“In very clear weather you would see it [blowhole] as far as it is hidden or anything like that you know," said Mr Coleman.
The rescue operation was coordinated by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Valentia, Co Kerry.
Gardaí are treating the incident as a tragic accident and a file is being prepared for the coroner in Cork.
The incident occurred on what was a busy weekend for the county's coast guard service.
Six people were rescued from a cave at Rocky Bay, between Kinsale and Crosshaven in Cork, after they became trapped by the incoming tide earlier.
Rescue 117, HSE paramedics and coast guard units were involved in the operation.
Yesterday, a kite suffer came to the assistance of a woman who got into difficulties swimming at Broadstrand in West Cork.
Meanwhile, a family was rescued by local surfers after two children and their parents got into trouble.
The parents entered the water to help their children with a strong undercurrent.
Surfers managed to rescue the family before emergency services reached the scene.