Third child dies after Gair Loch canoe tragedy as rescuers tell of desperate attempts to save victims
THE Highland sea loch canoeing tragedy has claimed its third victim, after a five-year-old girl lost her fight for life. Gracie Mackay, from Muir of Ord, died at Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow yesterday afternoon.
Her father and sister are understood to be the two survivors of the incident, in which a six-person canoe capsized in Gair Loch. One other person is missing.
Gracie was plucked from the water on Sunday by a local campsite owner, who found her face down and unconscious in the water, with a buoyancy aid on. She was taken by helicopter to Broadford Hospital on Skye before being transferred to Yorkhill
Earlier, police named the young boys who lost their lives as Ewen Beaton, five, and his brother Jamie, two. Their father, Ewen, 32, is still missing. The Coastguard search was “stood down” last night and further shoreline searches for Mr Beaton, now described as a “recovery operation”, will take place this morning. Mr Beaton’s sons, who had been rescued from the water and airlifted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, died overnight.
In a statement, their family said: “We are utterly devastated by what has happened and the loss of our beautiful little boys. We appreciate all that has and is being done by emergency services to find their adoring father, Ewen. It is too difficult to say anything more at this time and we would appreciate our family being left in peace to grieve our terrible loss.”
Ewen was a P1 pupil at Teanassie Primary School, near Beauly, while Jamie was due to start nursery at the end of the year.
Highland Council said pupils at the school were being offered support by specialists and an educational psychologist was on hand to advise teachers how best to offer help.
Acting head teacher Alison Donald said: “As we are a small community, the school, parents and the wider community will feel this loss deeply.”
The survivors were named locally as Garry Mackay, 36, and his daughter, Callie, eight – Gracie’s sister. The girls’ mother, who was not on the Canadian canoe, has been named as Wendy Macdonald.
Callie and her father swam about 800 metres to the shore to raise the alarm.
Relatives of the victims visited the scene yesterday but were too upset to talk.
An inquiry into the accident on a calm, sunny afternoon has been launched, but questions are already being raised about the suitability and stability of the open canoe for six people.
Police said the two families, from Inverness and Ross-shire, had travelled to the white sandy beaches next to Big Sands caravan park for a day out.
Inspector Neil Mackinnon, of Northern Constabulary, said: “The families are friends. At about 4:15pm, in Caolas Beag, between the caravan park and Longa Island, a canoe capsized with six people on board.
“The two families on board, who were not related, consisted of a 32-year-old father and his two sons, aged five and two, and a 36-year-old father with his two daughters, aged eight and five.
“Inquiries are at an early stage into this tragic incident, but we know the eight-year-old girl and her father managed to swim to shore and raise the alarm.”
The families, who launched the canoe from a slipway at the south end of the beach, had gone exploring around Longa Island and also in caves further north on the mainland.
The canoe is believed to have overturned about 500 metres from the shore. All the children were wearing buoyancy aids, though it is not known whether the two fathers were.
Jim Aaron, 70, described how Garry Mackay arrived at his door soaking wet and desperate for help. He said: “The man said the canoe had capsized and his mate was under water, with kiddies bobbing about on the water.
“I called the Coastguard and then went out to help. We were looking among rocks and crevices. We found the daughter about a mile away. Just after that, the Coastguard started taking people out of the water.
“The father was very stressed, but the girl had not realised the full impact of the situation. She was cold and shivering.
“The reality of the situation didn’t hit me until later in the night and I started thinking about the kiddies.”
James Cameron, 34, who jointly runs the Big Sands caravan site, said he and a friend had managed to find Gracie after becoming involved in the rescue.
He said: “I happened to be out in the boat when I heard there was an incident. We were just coming in and heard there was a girl missing, so we went out and actually found her.
“We found her face down. She was unconscious. She had her buoyancy aid on, it was keeping her afloat but it wasn’t keeping her head out the water. We took her in and we did try our best to resuscitate her. The Coastguard helicopter then picked her up off the boat and took her away to Broadford Hospital.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North