Third child dies in Loch Gairloch canoe tragedy


A five-year-old girl who was rescued from a sea loch after a canoe accident has died in hospital - the third child to die in the tragedy.

Gracie Mackay, from the Muir of Ord, was among six people in the boat, including two young brothers, which capsized in Loch Gairloch, near Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands, yesterday afternoon.

Ewen Beaton, five, and his two-year-old brother Jamie, died last night after being plucked from the water and airlifted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

The search for their father, Ewen Fraser Beaton, 32, has been stood down for the day. He is presumed dead.

A statement from Northern Constabulary said: "Police can confirm that five-year-old Gracie Mackay from the Muir of Ord area has sadly passed away late this afternoon at Yorkhill Hospital following the Gairloch water incident yesterday."

Six people from two families, two men and four children, were on board the boat when it capsized.

The girl's 35-year-old father and eight-year-old sister managed to swim to the shore and raise the alarm.

The five-year-old was initially airlifted to Broadford Hospital in Skye, but was transferred overnight by rescue helicopter to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill, Glasgow, where she died today.

The family of the young brothers and their father have issued a statement through police.

It 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."

Mr Godding described the search for Mr Beaton, which was stood down earlier today, as "extensive".

"The current situation is we've got one missing person who is a male adult. He has been in the water a very long time, if he is in the water. We have extensively completed a set of criteria which terminates the search. We've basically ticked all the boxes that says we don't need to search anymore," he said.

"Miracles do happen sometimes, so there's always that at the back of our minds.

"We've covered the same ground over and over at least three to four times. The vessels at sea have been likewise, there's been two lifeboats here today and there were two here yesterday, and the sea area has been extensively covered. The airspace has been flown over yesterday by our aircraft and there was aircraft presence earlier on.

"The 60 square miles have been extensively searched and we've come to the end of what we can do."

When asked about the type of canoe the group had been on, he said: "They are quite cheap vessels to purchase and unfortunately it's quite difficult to maintain the stability if you stand up in them."

Stornoway Coastguard was alerted to the incident at around 4.15pm yesterday after the man and his daughter made it to the shoreline.

Peter Godding, sector manager for Stornoway Coastguard, said: "It's amazing really, she swam quite a long way in the sea, which is no mean feat. It's pretty incredible that she did survive, with the adult as well.

"She would have given the police certain information which they didn't have.

"The girl that survived is very courageous and very resourceful to be able to complete a 500-metre swim to shore. I mean, that's no mean feat for an adult but she's achieved that and managed in combination with the other adult to raise the alarm. She's amazing."

A helicopter and lifeboats from Portree, Gairloch and Loch Ewe launched a search and were involved in the operation to remove the three children from the water.

Local boats assisted rescue services in the search for Mr Beaton, which continued into the night in the water near the caravan park at Gairloch.

Today, police, Stornoway Coastguard, lifeboats from Lochinver and Portree and members of the Red Cross were involved in the search operation, which resumed at first light.

The Coastguard confirmed tonight that the search had been suspended for the day, with rescue team members ready to resume coastline searches tomorrow.

Carol Collins, Stornoway Coastguard watch manager said: "Unfortunately despite best efforts by all those out searching today, the missing gentleman has not been found.

"Our thoughts are with the families of those involved in this tragic incident at this time."

Five-year-old Ewen Beaton was a primary one pupil at Teanassie Primary School, near Beauly, which is about 10 miles west of Inverness.

Highland Council said his brother was due to start nursery at the 61-pupil school at the end of the year.

Council leader Drew Hendry said: "This is a terrible tragedy that impacts on a close-knit community.

"On behalf of the council, I want to extend our deepest sympathies to the family. Our thoughts are with them at this very sad time."

Alison Donald, acting headteacher at the school, said: "As we are a small community, the school, parents and the wider community will feel this loss deeply."

James Martin, chairman of the school's parent council, said: "The school community is devastated by this tragic news.

"The Beatons are a well-known and highly respected family and the impact of their loss will be felt throughout the community."

According to reports, the children were wearing life jackets but their fathers were not.

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