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Climbers killed in plunge.

Byline: DAMIEN LANE

TWO hill walkers fell to their deaths and another was seriously hurt in a climbing accident yesterday.

The tragedy happened on Black Valley mountain in Macgillicuddy's Reeks, Co Kerry, just before 3pm.

A fourth climber managed to scale the side of the mountain and raise the alarm at a nearby farm.

One of the dead walkers was named last night as John Lucey, Chief Petty Officer at the naval base in Haulbowline, Co Cork.

He was also general secretary of the PDFORA, which represents members of the Defence Forces.

Naval spokesman Commander Hugh Tully said: "We are absolutely stunned and saddened at news of John's death.

"He was very well known and respected throughout the Defence Forces.

"He will be remembered as a very capable individual who was well liked and respected.

"Hill walking was one of John's hobbies and so this news has come as a terrible shock."

The other hillwalker killed was the girlfriend of the man who raised the alarm.

Within minutes of the accident up to 15 members of the 30-strong Kerry Mountain Rescue Team were sent to help in the search and rescue.

The bodies of Mr Lucey and a female were found at Lough Dubh but dangerous conditions mean the bodies will not be moved until today.

The injured climber was airlifted to Tralee General Hospital.

Michelle Roche, from Killarney Garda station, said: "Officers were sent to the scene shortly after the incident.

"We know where the rest of the climbers are but the darkness is slowing the rescue effort.

"Two Gardai will stay with the bodies overnight.

"It's just too dark and too dangerous to remove them until daylight."

The rescue team had been involved in an operation on nearby Carrauntoohil mountain when they were called for help.

Valentia coastguard also sent a helicopter and crew from Shannon to help retrieve the bodies and airlift any injured to hospital.

Coastguard officer Danny Lynch said: "It's looking bad. Our boys are doing everything they can to help the rescue team."

A Kerry Mountain Rescue spokesman said: "About half our team are involved in the rescue. It is pretty bad. But we will work all night if necessary."

Visibility on the mountain was described as good at the time of the accident.

The incident comes less than two weeks after another climber died while climbing Carrauntoohil, the highest mountain in Ireland.

Warren O'Brien, 23, from Cobh, Co Cork, fell to his death on St Stephen's Day.

Two other men who were with him were airlifted off the mountain to safety by a coastguard helicopter.

Peter O'Neill, chair of the Mountaineering Council of Ireland, said yesterday's accident came as a shock to all mountain climbers.

He added: "It certainly is unusual to have any incident like this and to have two in succession in a short period of time is unheard of."

CAPTION(S):

SCENIC: Macgillycuddy's Reeks in Co Kerry
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 7, 2002
Words:487
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