Family of Erne drowning victim ‘numbed’ by tragedy

A specialist PSNI boat on patrol in Lough Erne
A specialist PSNI boat on patrol in Lough Erne

The brother of a woman who drowned after slipping from a boat in Lough Erne on Saturday has said the family are “numbed” following the tragic accident.

Annette Preston, a 49-year-old from the Clanabogan area in Co Tyrone, lost her life in spite of the rescue attempts of a passer-by who had managed to successfully save Mrs Preston’s husband, Steven, who had also fallen into the water.

Mrs Preston’s brother, Thomas Sharkey, has described the incident as “just a tragic accident”.

Speaking to the Ulster Herald newspaper, Mr Sharkey added: “We’re all completely numbed.

“Annette and Stevie were making their way from the boat to the jetty when they fell overboard.

“The boat was a little higher than the jetty and, as always, Stevie had taken Annette by the hand to help her over. She lost her footing and slipped into the water, taking Stevie with her.

“Stevie was able to come up for a second and call for help. Fortunately, there was a man nearby who jumped in and pulled Stevie to safety.

“He went back in for Annette and tried his best to get her, but he couldn’t.”

The drowning is the second in Lough Erne this year. A woman in her 30s, from Co Donegal, died on a family holiday after falling overboard from a boat in April.

UUP Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Rosemary Barton was amongst those to express her sympathy for Mrs Preston’s family.

“This is a very tragic accident and I am sure the Sharkey family and the Preston family will be devastated by what has happened,” she said. “People must respect the dangers that the water can pose. Non-slip footwear and lifejackets should always be worn.”

She added: “I would also like to praise the emergency services for their brave actions.”

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said: “This is a terrible, terrible tragedy. I want to praise the heroism of the man who rescued Mr Preston because we could have been looking at two deaths were it not for his actions.

“Clanabogan is a tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone and this will be a devastating blow. It also goes to show the importance for anyone who is out on the water in the summer months to take the necessary precautions.”

West Tyrone Sinn Fein councillor Glenn Campbell was another who passed on his condolences.

“The Sharkey family are well known in the area and the community will be devastated,” he said.