A ferry-skipper alerted Stornoway Coastguard in late morning after seeing the men’s unmanned boat.

One diver was reported to have been seen surfacing briefly before submerging again, possibly to go to the assistance of the other.

RNLI Barra lifeboats, a Coastguard rescue helicopter and the Barra Coastguard Rescue Team attended the scene and pulled the men from the water about 80 minutes after the call, but they were later declared dead.

One of the men was named as Iain MacDougall, 39, a Castlebay resident said to be an experienced diver who sometimes dived for shellfish commercially. His friend Ryan McGuckin, also 39, was visiting the island from London. Western Isles Police have stated that there appeared to be no suspicious circumstances.

Another death occurred the previous day (28 July) off Ireland’s Donegal coast, when English diver John Alwright was reported to have been swept into a cave by currents.

The 57-year-old from Langford, Beds, was visiting the area with a dive-group, and the incident occurred near the village of Portnablagh.

Alwright was said to be unresponsive on being brought to the surface by fellow-divers.

Mulroy Bay Coast Guard and Sligo’s Rescue 118 helicopter attended the scene and the diver was treated using a defibrillator, but he was pronounced dead after being airlifted to hospital. A post mortem was being carried out as part of a police investigation.

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