Man (26) dies after car slips into sea off Arranmore Island

Donegal island’s lifeboat crew tried to save colleague while second man swam to safety

Lee Early, a 26-year-old man from Arranmore Island, died when his car slipped into the sea

Lee Early, a 26-year-old man from Arranmore Island, died when his car slipped into the sea


Members of a lifeboat crew desperately tried to save the life of a colleague whose car slipped into the sea on Arranmore Island off the Donegal coast on Sunday.

Another man in his 30s was manage to swim to safety during the incident which happened at Poolawaddy Pier just after 5am.

The deceased was named locally as Lee Early (26), who lived on the island, which has a population of about 450 people.

Mr Early, who worked on the Arranmore Ferry, volunteered on the island’s RNLI lifeboat, on which his father Jimmy serves as coxswain.

Mr Early died at the scene despite the efforts of the lifeboat crew, whose station is close to the scene of of the incident, to resuscitate him.

Owen Medland, RNLI area life-saving manager, said Mr Early’s death was a huge loss to the island.

“He was a super young man who would be a loss to any community never mind a small community,” he said.

“As an organisation, our thoughts are with the family, our volunteer crew who fought valiantly to save the young man’s life, and the wider Arranmore community.

“We would like to assure the community that after what appears was a tragic accident, we are maintaining our lifeboat service on the island which is further testimony to the crew in Arranmore.”

Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher said he was shocked by the news, describing the Early family as “true islanders”. The death had led to a great sense of loss, he said.

“He was a highly-regarded, hard-working and popular young man from a well-respected island family.”

A Garda investigation into the incident has commenced. It will seek to establish how the car in which the men were driving ended up going into the sea off the pier.

Three years ago in Co Donegal, five people - Sean McGrotty (49), his sons Mark and Evan, mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and her daughter Jodie-Lee - died when Mr McGrotty’s SUV slid on algae and entered the water at Buncrana Pier. A baby who was rescued by passerby and was the sole survivor.

A postmortem will be carried out on Mr Early’s body on Monday at Letterkenny University Hospital. His family, including his father Jimmy, mother Noreen, brother Adam and sisters Rachel and Laura, were being comforted by relatives and friends on Sunday.