Year-round swimmer drowned in rough sea conditions in Dublin, inquest told

Year-Round Swimmer Drowned In Rough Sea Conditions In Dublin, Inquest Told
Nuala Smyth (66) from Terenure was reported missing to gardaí by her family on January 3rd last year. Photo: PA
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Seán McCárthaigh

A verdict of misadventure has been recorded into the death of a Dublin woman who drowned while swimming alone in rough sea conditions in Killiney last year.

Nuala Smyth (66) from Terenure was reported missing to gardaí by her family on January 3rd, 2023.


Her body was found on rocks close to the Vico Baths in Killiney two days later by an RNLI lifeboat on a training exercise.

The deceased’s brother, Ciarán Smyth, told a sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court on Monday that his late sister had been a year-round swimmer.

Mr Smyth said she would go swimming almost on a daily basis “regardless of weather or conditions.”

He told coroner Clare Keane that she would go swimming in a number of different locations including Killiney Beach and Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow.


Asked how good a swimmer she was, Mr Smyth replied that she was “competent.”

Other relatives of Ms Smyth told the hearing that she had been in very good form over the Christmas when there had been a large family gathering.

They said she would only occasionally go swimming on her own as she usually went swimming with her brother-in-law.

The inquest heard that she had told relatives on January 3rd, 2023 that she planned to go for a run or a walk but that it transpired she had instead gone for a swim.


The family said waves at Killiney Beach on the day were over a metre high.

Asked why she might have taken the unusual step of going swimming on her own, her relatives speculated that she might have tried to see as a “once-off” how she could swim in such conditions.

Her brother, Colm Smyth, said his sister has previously spoken of how swimming provided her with relief from anxiety.

“She would be feeling better after a swim,” he added.


In a statement, Damien Payne of the RNLI station in Dún Laoghaire, said the body of a female in a black swimsuit was found by the lifeboat crew on rocks near the Vico Baths at around 11am on January 5th 2023.

Mr Payne said sea conditions made it too hazardous to attempt to recover the body with the lifeboat.

An advanced paramedic who attended the scene, Jim Leonard, said no attempts were made to resuscitate the victim and she was pronounced dead at 11.45am.

Garda Lee O’Donoghue told the hearing that the deceased matched the description of a woman who had been reported missing two days earlier and her family confirmed her identity to gardaí at the mortuary at St Colmcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown.


Garda O’Donoghue also confirmed that weather conditions over a few days at the time had been “very windy and wet.”

“The wave conditions were as bad as it gets,” he added.

The inquest heard that CCTV had shown Ms Smyth had travelled to Killiney via the DART, while her backpack containing her clothes and phone were recovered from the nearby beach.

Garda O’Donoghue confirmed there appeared to have been no eyewitnesses to what might have happened to the victim, but gardaí were satisfied there was no foul play in relation to her death.

Dr Keane said postmortem results showed Ms Smyth had died as a result of drowning.

The coroner said tests showed traces of prescription medicines in her body, but they had played no role in causing her death.

Dr Keane said she had heard no evidence to suggest there was any intention by Ms Smyth to harm herself.

She noted that the deceased has also gone to a location that she was in the habit of visiting when going for a swim.

Returning a verdict of death by misadventure, Dr Keane remarked: “The standout is the weather conditions. If the waves were high, it is a risk factor.”

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