By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Two young County Monaghan cousins became the last victims of a polar cold snap that gripped the country after Christmas when they drowned after falling through ice on a lake as the thaw set in on Sunday.
Louise McAloon, 12, from Hollywood, and Veronica McAloon, 10, from Aghabog, vanished after they had gone to Hollywood Lake near Scotstown.
They had said they were going to skate on the lake, which is not far from Louise’s home. When they failed to return, a major search was started.
On New Year’s Day, Garda divers found their bodies about 50 yards from the shore in about 10 feet of water. A Garda helicopter had earlier spotted two holes in the ice.
"Tragically, it appears they went down through a weak spot as the ice thawed," a Garda spokesman said.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
The bad weather also caused a series of tragic accidents.
Sarah Gallagher, 92, from Annagry, Co. Donegal, was the first victim when she apparently slipped on ice while feeding her cats outside her mobile home on Dec. 27. She is thought to have died from hypothermia. Neighbors found her body the next day.
On Dec. 30, Kim Archibold, 16, was killed when her toboggan hit a tree near her home in Swords, in north Dublin.
The bad weather gripped the country for five days. Snowfalls of up to eight inches and temperatures as low as minus-16 degrees in some areas was the worst cold snap for decades.
The ice and snow caused havoc for travelers, with repeated warnings from gardai and motoring organizations that people should not travel unless their journeys were absolutely necessary.
People were asked to check on elderly neighbors and there was concern for many homeless sleeping outdoors in the freezing conditions.
Disruption to transportation systems was widespread as buses, trains and airlines all struggled to cope with the extreme conditions.
Many people home from abroad for the Christmas and New Year break found bus services cancelled and only main roads passable in many areas. Air travel was also disrupted, with Galway airport particularly badly hit.
Western, Northern and Midland areas of the country were worst hit, but the freeze-up also gripped Cork and the Douthwest.
Many rural bus services were cancelled and there were delays in services in the bigger towns and cities. Trains continued to run.
Holiday sporting fixtures were cancelled and many special entertainment features for the holiday such as concerts were also called off.