Tributes have been paid to the two nuns who died in shallow waters in a tragic accident on the world famous Inch strand in County Kerry.

Police are investigating how Sister Imelda Carew (67) and Sister Paula Buckley (70) got into difficulties on Thursday evening.

The Irish Independent reports that the Presentation Order nuns have been remembered as ‘wonderful women who have been an inspiration and blessing to many people.’

The paper reports that the sisters got into difficulty when they went for an evening swim. A third woman who was with them raised the alarm but they died despite the efforts of emergency services.

A senior figure in the Presentation Order told the paper: “It’s a huge blow to the Order. Even though they were aged in their 60s and 70s, they would have been seen as young nuns. It’s very sad and a big blow.

“For the past number of the years Sr Imelda has served in the ministry of leadership in the Congregation and was until her untimely death the leader of the South East Province Ireland.”

The two nuns, both natives of Tipperary, were actively involved in the community. Sr Paula had been involved in Prison ministry in Dublin according to the report.

The Presentation Order spokesperson added: “For many years Sr Paula was involved in teaching and career guidance in secondary schools throughout the South East Province.”

The Irish Independent reports that the third woman raised the alarm with lifeguards after the two nuns disappeared from her view.

The lifeguards, who were coming off duty at the time, were able to wade in and pull the ladies from the water.

A Coast Guard team and a helicopter were sent to the scene but the women were pronounced dead at Tralee hospital.

Kerry woman Margaret Wrenn was on the beach at the time and told the paper how between six and eight young people worked constantly on the two women and were visibly upset afterwards.