The late Dessie Byrne, pictured in 2018.

Local victim of drowning tragedy was "a fun-loving guy who loved life"

Dessie Byrne, one of the victims of yesterday evening's horrific double drowning tragedy in Kerry, has been described as someone who "loved life" and was "great to be around".

Mr Byrne (50) and his sister, Muriel Eriksson (62), who were originally from Baylough in Athlone, were pronounced dead yesterday evening after getting into difficulty in the water at Ballybunion beach.

Mr Byrne had been living in Lecarrow for many years while his sister resided in Malmo, Sweden, and was back in Ireland for a visit.

Aengus O'Rourke, the Athlone councillor and current Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, said that, while he didn't know Muriel, he would have been friendly with Dessie Byrne for many years as both were similar in age.

"He was in my circle of friends growing up as a teenager and in my early 20s," Cllr O'Rourke told the Westmeath Independent.

"Our eldest son, Luke, is the same age as Des' eldest son, Dean, and they played on a football team together for a few years. I only met Des recently, while out for a meal, and had a chance to chat to him and catch up with him.

"He was a fun-loving guy who loved life. He was very social, great to be around, and it is genuinely hard to believe that he's gone."

Mr Byrne worked as a skilled carpenter and carpet fitter and his services were in demand from people building extensions or renovating their home, Cllr O'Rourke said.

"When we were in our early 20s, at a time when few people went on skiing trips, Des and a few pals used to go skiing together every year to the Alps or wherever else.

"We always used to love it when he'd come home from those trips because he'd always have plenty of stories to tell after the week's skiing.

"What unfolded in Kerry yesterday was just an awful set of circumstances, and desperately sad."

He extended his deepest condolences to Mr Byrne's partner, Paulette, his boys Josh and Dean, and his family and friends.

"The people of Athlone, in particular Baylough and Lecarrow are all reeling at this awful news," he said.

Mr Byrne had been living in Lecarrow for many years and was a member of the Lecarrow Lazers cycling club.

This afternoon, the club said it was "with great shock and sadness that we have learned of the tragic passing of our dear friend and club mate Dessie Byrne and his sister Muriel in a drowning accident yesterday evening.

"On behalf of the club we extend our sympathies to Dessie's family, relatives and friends. All club activities are cancelled for this weekend," Lecarrow Lazers said in a social media post.

The deceased were taken yesterday evening to University Hospital Kerry, in Tralee, where post mortems are to be carried out.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.