A seven-year-old girl who drowned while swimming at Fountainstown Beach in Co Cork yesterday has been named as Emili Roman, a second class pupil at Templebreedy National School in Co Cork.
Her name was spelled out in stones on a wall at the beach on Wednesday with locals placing flowers alongside it as they remember a little girl who died in the sea two days before her 8th birthday.
Edith Wilkins from Crosshaven was a neighbour of the girl, whose body was recovered close to the shore at 7.30pm on Tuesday evening, three hours after she was swept out to sea.
She said neighbours and friends of the family hoped for the best as an extensive search was conducted yesterday afternoon.
“We were listening to the helicopters and then when the helicopters stopped going it was the worst thing ever. You could hear a pin drop in our estate when the helicopters stopped,” she said.
Describing Emili as “a beautiful little one”, she added: “It was just getting dark and I think everyone thought ‘thank God they found her before it got dark.’ And I thought ‘they won’t have to go through the night’ wondering where she is is. She will be so missed.”
Poignantly, Jeremy, the twin brother of Emili, will turn eight tomorrow, without his sister.
Meanwhile, among those reflecting on the tragedy which saw the loss of life of the little girl from Harbour View in Crosshaven, was Kenneth Curtin, who participated in the search for the youngster
Mr Curtin, who is from Shandon in Cork city, has been spending time in his mobile home in Fountainstown every summer for over a decade.
“I have been coming here for fifteen years and I have never seen anything like it. They (his family) are all shocked up in the mobile home.
“It is very tragic. It is unbelievable. I searched (last night) with the lads from the mobile homes. People wanted to find the body to give the family peace of mind because it would have been a long night (if she wasn’t found).”
A woman from Grange in Cork city who gave the name Linda said she was also at Fountainstown Beach yesterday just hours before little Emily died. She said that the sea seemed quite choppy.
“September always seems to be a good time for weather. The lifeguards I believe finish when the kids go back to school but they are here the at weekend. I think they should be encouraged to stretch having lifeguards all the time in the first two weeks of September.”
Another middle-aged woman on the beach, who declined to be named, said that she couldn’t remember a more tragic summer.
“It has been one thing after another. The debs deaths. The Leaving (deaths). That boy (who got killed) on the bike in Carrigaline. Every single day there is something.”
Meanwhile, €6,500 euro has been raised to pay for the funeral of Emili after a Go Fund Me page was set up by family friend Beata O’Sullivan.
Bishop Paul Colton, Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, is patron of the school. He said that there was widespread devastation at the death of Emily.
“A tragedy like this is having a traumatic effect also on this small parish school at the start of this new school year, and also the wider community. I am visiting the school this morning and throughout the day,” he said.
He added that practical support and prayers are assured for everyone in the school community and thanked the emergency services for their swift and diligent responses.
Doris Byran the school principal, who is also Emili’s class-teacher in second class, describes her as a kind child with a bubbly personality.
“She had a beautiful smile. She was greatly loved by everyone and was very popular with all her friends. She was also very artistic and a gifted young girl.”
Her funeral Mass is due to take place at the Church of Our Lady and St. John, Carrigaline on Saturday.
Emili’s body was recovered on Wednesday by a member of the public, assisted by a volunteer from the lifeboat crew of Crosshaven RNLI, after her body was spotted near the shore.
The two carried the child’s body from the sea at about 7.30pm on Tuesday. She was taken to Crosshaven Lifeboat Station where her family members had gathered.
The Rescue 115 helicopter, Waterford Coastguard Helicopter, RNLI Crosshaven Lifeboat Station, Port of Cork pilot boat, The Customs Boat, Ballycotton Lifeboat and Mallow Search and Rescue all participated in the search for the girl after the alarm was raised shortly after 4.30p. Gardaí, the Fire Service and the National Ambulance Service were also on the scene.
The coroner has been notified and an inquest will take place at a later date. A postmortem will be carried out at Cork University Hospital.
The death of the girl comes in the wake of a number of tragedies in the sea in Cork in recent weeks. Jack O’Sullivan (14) died on August 24th last after he got in to difficulty while swimming with friends at Passage West on Cork’s Lower Harbour.
On August 20th Ivan Chittenden (64) from Toronto, Canada and Brendan Wall (45) of Cardrath, Co Meath died in separate incidents during the swim section of the Ironman event in Youghal, Co Cork. A memorial service took place for Mr Chittenden last Saturday in Toronto.