Northern Ireland

Ballycastle: Vigil on beach for swimmer Deirdre McShane

Family and friends of Deirdre McShane lay roses in the sea during a vigil
Image caption Family and friends of Deirdre McShane gathered at Ballycastle beach on Tuesday morning

About 100 people have gathered on a County Antrim beach for a vigil for a woman who died while swimming in the sea on Monday.

Deirdre McShane, who was 58, was a midwife and a mother of two.

She and another woman got into difficulties while swimming in the sea off Ballycastle beach. The second woman is in a stable condition in hospital.

Ms McShane's partner and her children were joined on the beach by friends for a prayer service on Tuesday morning.

Her family and friends took flowers on to the beach and threw them into the sea in her memory.

The service was organised by Ms McShane's sea swimming group.

It is believed Ms McShane swam in that stretch of sea, known as Carey beach, every morning.

'Kind, dedicated and passionate'

The Reverend Dr Alex Wimberly, who led the vigil, told BBC News NI: "Although there are no easy answers in a tragedy like this and no one to blame, we have seen so much to give thanks for in a community that has rallied round the family and each other."

He said prayers for the woman who pulled her from the sea, the man who administered first aid and all of those involved in the rescue.

Image caption Flowers were thrown into the sea in Deirdre McShane's memory

The sea was beautiful but dangerous, he told those at the vigil.

Paying tribute to Ms McShane, he said: "This day we give you thanks for Deirdre, for her strength and her joy, for her determination to be her full self and to do each day what she loved.

"We thank you for her encouragement of others, her skill and care at work, her affection and attention at home, her courage and her love of life, even in her death."

The Northern Health Trust, where Ms McShane worked, described her as "kind, dedicated and passionate about providing excellent maternity care to mothers and babies".

The ambulance service was called to the incident shortly before 08:30 GMT on Monday.

Aine Paterson was walking a dog along the beach when she spotted the swimmers in trouble and pulled both women out of the sea.

She told BBC News NI the first swimmer indicated someone else was missing before losing consciousness.

Ciaran Kinney from the Coastguard said he believed cold water shock was to blame for Ms McShane's death.

He said it could affect anyone, regardless of their swimming ability.

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