Two Irish holidaymakers in their mid-40s were drowned on Friday evening amid strong waves on popular beach on the Greek island of Crete.
The tragedy occurred on Mavros Molos beach on Kissamos Bay, located at the northwestern point of the Mediterranean island some 40km from the city of Chania.
A coastguard official in Kissamos named the two men as John James Lynch (45) and Kevin Eugene Devine (46). One of the men had dual Irish-Australian citizenship but both are believed to be from the Co Louth area with Dublin connections.
The official said the two men entered the water after 5.30pm on Friday although there was a red flag flying on the beach warning against bathing. When one of them found himself in difficulty, he called on the other man for help but the adverse conditions prevented them from returning to the beach.
Young men who were surfing in the same area eventually reached and retrieved the men, who, according to the coastguard, were dead when they were brought ashore.
The beach is normally supervised but the coastguard official said that the duty lifeguard had finished his shift shortly before the men went in for a swim.
The men’s bodies were subsequently transferred to Chania hospital, where preparations are being made to repatriate the remains to Ireland.
The Irish embassy in Athens confirmed it was offering consular assistance to the men’s families. An official said that they were unaware of the circumstances of the drowning and were awaiting autopsy reports.
Greece’s coastguard says there has been a marked increase in drowning incidents this summer, with 176 fatalities recorded in the country’s waters from June to August 17th. The figures for June and July show a 50 per cent increase on the same period in 2013.
Last month, an Athens coroner blamed the high numbers of swimming deaths on the irresponsible behaviour of some bathers but also due to the failure of many municipalities to provide lifeguards at popular beaches.