The bodies of two men have been recovered during a search near Louisburgh in Co Mayo, after a vehicle in which three men were travelling entered the water in the early hours of this morning.

The third man, aged 19, managed to escape from the SUV and raise the alarm.

Gardaí confirmed the bodies of the two victims, aged 26 and 27, were found this afternoon after a major search operation involving garda divers and the Coast Guard.

All three men are from the Louisburgh area.

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The vehicle was travelling close to a bridge over the Carrownisky River when it entered the water near Louisburgh at about 2.30am.

It is understood the vehicle was crossing a stretch of water that had become swollen amid bad weather conditions.

The SUV was fully submerged as it was swept away.

The young man who managed to escape raised the alarm at about 3am.

The location where the incident occurred is around 4km south of Louisburgh, close to Carrownisky Strand.

The Garda Water Unit, fire service personnel and members of the Irish Coast Guard were involved in the search operation.

Sligo-based Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter R118 also carried out aerial searches down stream from the accident site. 

The bodies have been removed to University Hospital Castlebar where post-mortem examinations are expected to be carried out tomorrow.

Gardaí are continuing to investigate the cause of the incident.

Mayo county councillor Christy Hyland said the victims were from well-known and respected families in the area.

"Our thoughts go out to their loved ones, their families and friends," he said.

"The whole community is in shock.

"This is a terrible tragedy to happen at any time, but especially on Christmas morning."