Tributes paid to 16-year-old boys who drowned in Derry's Lough Enagh
Tributes have been paid to two 16-year-old boys who died after getting into difficulty in a lough in Co Derry.
The teenagers, named locally as Reuven Simon and Joseph Sebastian, had been swimming at Lough Enagh yesterday evening when the tragic scenes unfolded.
The boys had been in a larger group who stopped off at the lough while cycling in the area.
They were pupils at St Columb’s College in the city.
The bicycles the boys had been riding remained beside the lough today which has been cordoned off by police, while some locals visited the small jetty to leave flowers in tribute.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the two boys.
"Our hearts go out to their families. We can all imagine young people going out to enjoy a beautiful summer's afternoon. And for it to end in such tragedy, people availing of and using a water amenity, which we've all done in our different times," he told reporters in Monaghan.
Principal Finbar Madden described “shock and sadness” within the school at the “heart-breaking loss of two of our incoming Year 13 pupils”.
“No words can express the devastation that we feel as a school community, but first and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with both boys’ families, community and friends,” he said in a statement.
“This will be a very difficult time for the whole St Columb’s family and in the coming days it will be important that our pupils are with people they know and trust.”
He said they will be providing support for the students.
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said the local community was shocked at the tragedy, particularly the Kerala community which the teenagers had been part of.
He said the city is heartbroken at the devastating loss of Reuven Simon and Joseph Sebastian, adding thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends and the Kerala community at “this unbelievably dark and difficult time”.
“All of the young fellas involved in last night’s incident were from the Kerala community, they would be a very settled, established and vibrant Kerala community here, maybe 250 families from southern India who have been here a long time,” he told the PA news agency.
“These young fellas have just completed their GCSEs, they got their results last week. They would have been looking forward to getting back to school.
“I have spoken to the school principal who was looking forward to having these boys back, he said they were great students and never had a day’s bother out of them, and now he is going to have to break it to the rest of the boys at the school who will be coming back this week to the sight of two empty desks in their classroom.”
The PSNI said officers were called shortly after 6.25pm to reports of a number of people in difficulty in the water.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said a rapid response paramedic, five emergency crews, a hazardous area response team and an ambulance officer were dispatched.
NIAS also tasked the air ambulance to attend the bank holiday Monday incident.
One of the boys was taken from the water but later pronounced dead in hospital.
The body of the second youth was recovered late last night following extensive searches by Foyle Search and Rescue and police divers.
Another male was taken to hospital for treatment for injuries not believed to be life threatening, while three others have been left shocked, police said.
Mark Deeney, Western Area Commander for the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) said their thoughts are with the families and friends of the boys those affected.
He said firefighters were called to the scene at 6.31pm, and deployed a number of fire appliances and a specialist Water Rescue Team.
“On arrival we were informed that two teenage boys were missing in the water approximately five metres from the end of a jetty,” he said.
“Members of the Water Rescue Team from Crescent Link immediately entered the water and, supported by other personnel, were able to recover one of the boys within 20 minutes.
“He was transferred to hospital by NIAS but sadly did not survive.”
The search continued for the second boy, and his body was recovered just before midnight after an extensive search.
He added: “Despite the tragic outcome I would like to commend the efforts of our crews at the scene who worked tirelessly in an attempt to rescue the boys.
“Working in partnership with our colleagues in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and Foyle Search and Rescue, everything possible was done to give them the best chance of survival.
“We are continuing to support our crews today and indeed our colleagues in our Regional Control Centre with specialist debriefs following this challenging incident.”
Mr Durkan said the lough had been the scene of tragedy just over 30 years ago, when a young man lost his life.
“The beauty of this lake belies a real danger,” he said.
“I have been working with other elected representatives, agencies and community agencies on putting forward proposals for the redevelopment of this lough for more water sports.
“Whatever we do, safety has to be first and foremost in everyone’s minds.
“Sadly many people said there was an accident waiting to happen, and sadly it happened last night.”
PSNI’s Inspector Brogan said: “Inquiries are ongoing into this incident but we believe, at this stage, that this was a tragic drowning incident.
“Our thoughts are with the families of those affected.”