Two local families were plunged into unbearable grief on Saturday last, each losing a child by drowning.
Toddler Sarah Kate Frost, less than a month short of her second birthday, died in a small fish-pond at a First Communion party in the city, while 13-year-old Nicole O’Brien-Kelly lost her life while bravely attempting to rescue her younger sister from the sea off Inchydoney in West Cork.
Little Sarah Kate, daughter of Michael and Aine Frost from Williamstown Village, was at the party with her parents in the new Summerville Avenue home of her uncle and aunt, Ronan and Kate Mulligan of the well known pharmacist family, when tragedy struck.
It was the child’s mother who made the horrendous discovery shortly after 5 o’clock and a party guest explained the awful circumstances. She said everyone was having a wonderful time – the men watching the Heineken Rugby Cup final on TV and the women sitting around in the sunshine chatting. The event happened within an hour of the Communion party group arriving at the house.
“The children were also well looked after, with lots of outdoor toys to keep them entertained”, she reported. “Somebody enquired as to Sarah Kate’s whereabouts and there were immediate alarm bells. Aine ran down the garden and then guests heard her screams”.
She laid the child down and started to try and resuscitate her, she being a trained nurse. She was also assisted by another nurse and a doctor who were guests at the house. Emergency services arrived at the scene within a short time. Efforts were also made to revive her in the hospital but without success and she was pronounced dead.
There were harrowing scenes at the funeral Mass on Monday in the Church of Ss. Joseph and Benildus, where many hundreds of sympathisers joined the devastated family – including Sarah Kate’s brother and sister Robert and Julianna and her grandparents Con and Una Cleary and Michael and Bernie Frost.
With tears streaming down the faces of most in the packed church, Chief celebrant Fr. Paul Murphy strove to offer some words of comfort. He said that when somebody died so young there was always wonder as to what he or she might have turned out to be.
“I know what Sarah Kate would have been”, he said, “…..a priest”. He recalled that the ever lively little child used wander up towards the altar during Sunday Mass “and was fond of giving her own little sermon”.
Her baptismal candle had been placed upon her tiny white coffin for the duration of the ceremony, after which her remains were taken on a final journey to her father’s native Cratloe in County Clare, where they were laid to rest.
Nicole “was always smiling”
Within an hour of Sarah Kate’s death the O’Brien-Kelly family, from Carney Bay in Glenmore, suffered the equally devastating loss of their lovely Nicole.
She drowned while trying to rescue her sister CJ (11) who had got into difficulty in the water at Inchydoney, where family members were on a day break.
The alarm was raised by a woman who noticed the two girls struggling and while CJ was safely brought ashore Nicole could not be resuscitated after being taken from the water. That was despite desperate efforts by her father Gerard, gardai and coastguard volunteers.
Nicole is one of a family of seven whose mother Isabelle was abroad and rushed home on being told the terrible news.
She was a popular first year student at Abbey Community College in Ferrybank and the Deputy Principal there, Mr. Eugene Power, described her as an ever-helpful girl who always had a smile on her face.
“We have her sister Chloe in second year here and our thoughts are especially with her”, he said.
He remarked that Nicole had settled in well since arriving last September and had made many friends. “She had a great sense of fun and was always supportive of her classmates. It was she who took it on herself earlier this year to guide a new student from Eastern Europe around the school, showing her where everything was. It is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family”.
Class tutors, the year head and a counsellor have been helping her classmates cope with the shock and a service of remembrance was held at the school on Monday. Also, the first year students created a memorial to Nicole, penning poems and drawings to honour her life. Those were placed in the entrance hall along with her photograph and the school flag flew at half mast as a mark of respect.
There were heart-rending scenes as Nicole’s remains were removed from Waterford Regional Hospital to Kilmacow Church on Tuesday evening. She was to be buried in the adjoining cemetery following 11 o’clock Requiem Mass on Wednesday.