Mourners hear of ‘special bond’ between siblings who tragically drowned in Kerry

The funeral of the brother and sister who tragically drowned last week in County Kerry heard how they loved their adventures together and that they had a special bond.

Lecarrow man, Dessie Byrne (50) and his sister Muriel Eriksson (62) lost their lives after getting into difficulty in the water on Thursday evening last. Both were originally from Baylough, Athlone and had been holidaying in the Ballybunion area when the tragedy happened.

Mr. Byrne had been living in Lecarrow for a number of years with his family while Mrs. Eriksson was home on holidays from Malmo in Sweden where she lived with her family.

There was outpouring of grief in the communities of Athlone and Lecarrow following the tragedy as Taoiseach Micheál Martin and a number of local public representatives led tributes to Dessie and Muriel.

The joint funeral mass took place at St. John’s Church in Lecarrow on Tuesday where the Lecarrow Lazers Cycling Club – of which Mr. Byrne had been a member – took part in a guard of honour which also included a local vintage car club. A motorcycle cortege had accompanied both hearses to the church.

Prior to the mass, a montage of pictures of both siblings was streamed online depicting the happy times they had shared with family and friends.

Parish Priest Fr. Ray Milton said Dessie and Muriel, were the youngest and eldest siblings in the Byrne family, and that they “had been close in life, died together, and we pray they will be reunited in heaven”.

Describing Dessie and Muriel and generous and giving people who had lived life to the full, Fr. Milton said there had been shock and disbelief when news of the tragedy filtered through and that the community’s hearts went out to their families.

Photos of Dessie and Muriel were brought to the altar during the offertory procession along with a cycling jersey and miniature vintage car.

Moving tributes were paid by Keith Byrne, Muriel’s son John, and one of Des’ sons, Dean.

“How does one even start to describe the wonderful father and friend was to his adoring sons, Dean and Josh? They were, quite simply, his whole life, his entire universe,” Keith Byrne told the congregation before highlighting how Dessie had loved his adventures with Muriel and how they had a special bond.

He thanked the emergency services and staff at University Hospital Kerry for the love and care, particularly to Dessie’s son, Josh.

Muriel’s son, John, said his mother was the “most loving, caring person” he had ever met, adding: “much like her mother, Una, the best thing she knew was kids”.

Dessie’s son Dean told the congregation that his father was a great man and that they did everything together.

“He was always out somewhere at a show or car boot sale bringing me and Josh with him for the spin in his blue van,” he said.

He thanked the community for their love and support and concluded by saying: “It’s sad enough losing your dad, but it’s so much worse when you not only lose your dad but your aunt.

“I haven’t been able to fully grieve for Muriel yet, and it hasn’t fully sunk in that she’s gone. I’ll miss being handed the phone and seeing her big smile on Facetime asking me about school and work”.

Mr. Byrne was laid to rest in the local cemetery while Mrs. Eriksson’s cremation took place yesterday (Wednesday) at Lakelands Crematorium in Cavan.