The volunteer lifeboat crew were requested to launch their D class lifeboat at 8.31pm after two local women raised the alarm that they could see an airbed with two girls drifting out to sea off Duncannon Beach. With the wind blowing offshore, the airbed was blowing directly out to sea.
Four men, one of whom was the children’s father, had entered the sea and swam towards the girls.
With time of the essence, RNLI deputy launching authority Hugh Burke launched his own boat, which was nearer Duncannon, and made his way to the scene along with another local vessel.
Once there, he observed a windsurfer had made his way to the girls. One girl was on the lilo, and one of the four men who had swam out to help was holding onto the windsurfer’s board.
Burke took the girl and the swimmer onboard and brought them safely back to shore. On arrival, he was met by a shore crew member from Fethard RNLI who alerted him that a man, the father of the two girls who had been taken out of the water by a local swimmer, was in need of serious medical attention on Duncannon Beach.
The father had reached the airbed and rescued one of the girls. However, as he was swimming the half-mile back to the beach with his daughter, he too got into difficulty, and both were dragged under water.
One of the other men took the girl, who had taken on a lot of water, and made it safely to shore. That swimmer returned to the water to help but he too then got into difficulty as exhaustion from his efforts set in.
Meanwhile, a strong local swimmer, who had seen the incident unfold from his home, immediately got involved and went to the aid of this man, brought him to shore before going back into the sea and rescuing the father of the two girls.
As this was happening, a kayaker went to the aid of another man who had entered the water to help and was drifting 100m away from the others and was struggling. The casualty held onto the kayak as the kayaker brought him ashore.
The Dunmore East Coast Guard unit, which was also tasked, arrived on the beach just before the father and daughter were brought ashore. With the arrival of the coastguard unit and the Fethard RNLI lifeboat crew, casualty care was immediately administered by both teams.
The man was treated for hypothermia and for drifting in and out of consciousness. The girl was treated for inhaling a considerable amount of water. Both responded immediately to casualty care and were looked after by all the volunteers on scene until the arrival of an ambulance. They were then transferred to hospital for further treatment.
Speaking following the callout, Burke said: “With thanks to a huge community effort this evening, a tragedy was averted and we would like to commend all those locally who played their part in bringing the six people to safety. We also want to wish everyone who got into difficulty a speedy recovery following their ordeal.
“Time was of the essence this evening and from the raising of the alarm, to the local efforts to get to the scene to help, right through to the administration of casualty care, fortunately it resulted in a good outcome for all.
“We would like to remind everyone of the importance of respecting the water. We would ask the public to remember that inflatables such as lilos are designed for pools and not the open sea where they can be easily swept out by offshore winds and lead you into difficulty.
“Always wear a lifejacket, always carry a mean of communication and should you get into difficulty call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”
The rescue come days after Fethard RNLI officially named their new D class lifeboat Naomh Dubhán, which was funded entirely by the local community.