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Tue, Jul
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‘It is a dark week’

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HEARTBREAK The waters of Lough Mask, from which a child's body was recovered this morning.
 

Tourmakeady in shock after tragic death of five-year-old Ben Duffy on Lough Mask


Anton McNulty


THE Gaeltacht community of Tourmakeady is in mourning following the tragic death of five-year-old Ben Duffy, whose body was recovered from Lough Mask this morning.
A massive search-and-rescue operation was launched at approximately 6.30pm yesterday evening (Monday), when the little boy fell into the water from an inflatable dinghy while playing with his family along the shore of Lough Mask near Tourmakeady.
The search resumed at first light this morning (Tuesday), and Ben’s body was recovered by members of the Gráinne Uaile Sub Aqua Club at approximately 8.30am.
Local parish priest Fr John Kenny said the whole community was in a state of shock, stunned by the tragedy that has afflicted Ben’s parents Alan and Tracey and all the Duffy family.
“Yesterday evening, it went from a sunny summer’s day with a holiday atmosphere buzz around the place to people screaming for help and devastation for the family.
“The community is stunned and shocked by what happened and are so upset for the family. The Duffys are involved in everything, the soccer, the Gaelic, the music, the dancing, the fundraising, everything that goes on in the parish. They are a well-loved family, and little Ben was the youngest of five and just five years old,” he said.
It is understood a number of local families were playing along the shore of the lake when the inflatable dinghy carrying Ben drifted from the shore. Fr Kenny explained that a number of local people immediately joined in on the search and did what they could to try to save Ben.
They were quickly joined by the Corrib Mask Search and Rescue team, the Irish Coast Guard, An Garda Síochána, two Coast Guard rescue helicopters, River Moy Search and Rescue, Gráinne Uaile Sub Aqua Club, Inland Fisheries Ireland and local anglers and boatmen.
The search was stood down at 11.30pm last night before resuming at first light this morning. The body was recovered by a team of divers in four metres of water approximately 200 yards from the shore.
Tourmakeady GAA paid tribute to Ben on its Facebook page reflecting the feeling of all the community when they wrote: “Tá ár gcroí briste. Codladh sámg i measc na n-aingeal a stóirín.”

‘Blink of an eye’
Ballinrobe-based councillor Michael Burke said the local community was heartbroken by the tragedy and expressed his sympathies to the Duffy family.
“It is a horrendous situation for the family to be in on what was a lovely weekend. In the blink of the eye they went from enjoying a family day out to an awful tragedy. I was down in Tourmakeady earlier this morning and people are devastated to say the least. I know the Tourmakeady people well, and there is a great community spirit. I’m in no doubt that they will rally around this family. It is a dark week in Tourmakeady and the south Mayo region,” he said.
Cllr Burke praised the response to the tragedy by all the emergency services, volunteers and locals who came out to help in the search, saying there must have been 60 boats out on the water.
Cllr Michael Loftus, a member of the Gráinne Uaila Sub Aqua Club, which took part in the search, described their task as heart-wrenching but said they were happy to play their part in recovering the body for the family.
“It was a tremendous effort from all the emergency services groups and by the local community to retrieve the body of that young boy. It was a great community effort. It was one of the most heart-wrenching searches we have ever involved in. It was so, so sad but we were happy to recover the body and give him back to the family, which was the goal of everyone who was out searching,” he said.