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Thirty-Six Lives Saved in Near-Drowning Rescues

26th November 2012
Thirty-Six Lives Saved in Near-Drowning Rescues

#irishwatersafety – Twenty-six rescuers from twenty-two dramatic near-death incidents will receive recognition at Irish Water Safety's National Awards Ceremony at City Hall, Dublin on Tuesday 27th November 2012, from 3pm to 5pm. Thirty-six lives were saved through the brave actions of these rescuers.

Mr John Perry TD, Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will present the "SEIKO Just in Time Rescue Award" to these rescuers in appreciation for saving so many lives.

"Tragically an average of 140 drownings occur in Ireland every year," commented Minister Perry, "and although that's 140 too many, the figure would be even higher but for the dramatic efforts of these individuals who saved others from drowning and the ongoing work of volunteers teaching swimming and rescue skills."

"Last year, the 128 drownings in Ireland were lower than the annual average, reason enough to be confident that the work of Irish Water Safety Volunteers and partners in the public and private sector is having the desired outcome - more people enjoying our wonderful aquatic facilities more safely. That said complacency is not an option", he added.

"I appeal to all adults to make themselves more aware of the dangers in, on and around water", continued Minister Perry. "It only takes seconds for tragedy to strike and this can so easily be avoided if people take responsibility for their own safety by learning about the hazards. I ask that people encourage friends and family to read Irish Water Safety's guidelines at so that they don't become a drowning statistic."

Service Awards will also be presented, recognising 795 years of personal service of 43 Irish Water Safety volunteers from around the country for teaching swimming, rescue and water survival skills.



Co. Clare

Ms Eve Copley, Ms Ellen McMahon, Ms Aisling O'Sullivan

On the evening of Tuesday the 12th June 2012, three friends, Aisling, Eve and Ellen, were walking home from town when they noticed a woman in distress at the edge of the River Fergus, trying to retrieve her dog by calling to him. The woman entered the water and soon got into difficulty due to the strong current. Without hesitation the three friends quickly raced to the aid of the woman. They got the lifebuoy that was located at Steels Rock, Lifford town and threw it towards the woman who grabbed hold of it and they pulled her in towards them to safety. Thanks to the quick thinking and actions of these three friends a drowning was prevented.

Co Cork

Ms Bebhinn Crowley

Sunday 7th October 2012, The Munster School championships took place at UL. Fifteen year old Bebhinn came to the rescue of her friend. During a 100m final, a female competitor collapsed, having completed the race. It was the observation and quick response of Bebhinn that resulted in the rescue of this student.

Co Cork

Mr Karl Fitzgerald

On Saturday 25th August 2012, the Fitzgerald family were at Chimney Cove, West Cork. Karl's parents entered the water and they were wading until the current pulled them out of their depth. They tried to swim back to shore but the force of the current was too strong. Karl immediately made his way down along the rocks towards them. He entered the water and rescued his mother first. Once she was safe, he assisted his cousin Michael in rescuing his father. If it were not for the quick thinking and actions of Karl, this incident may have ended in tragedy.

Co Donegal

Mr Jason McClay

Around midnight, on the 2nd June 2012, a car had left the road, careered fifty yards through a field and went off a steep drop into the Crana river near Buncranna. Nineteen year old Jason McClay from Kinnego, had been at a friend's house when he heard the screeching of tyres followed by a loud bang. He left the house and ran down through a field and saw that a car was submerged in the water. Without hesitation, Jason jumped off the 40 ft Ravine. Upon entering the water he noticed a girl who had managed to escape out of the car. Jason swam in through the car window. Visibility was poor as it was very dark and he could not see anyone else in the car. On leaving the car, he noticed a boy and dragged him over to the bank. He then went back and got another boy out and dragged him to safety. There were four passengers in total, all teenagers. Only two were swimmers. Emergency services arrived to the scene. Due to the quick thinking and selfless courage of Jason's actions, four lives were saved.

Co Donegal

Mr Patrick Moss

On the afternoon of the 27th of December 2011, twenty year old Patrick Moss was taking a walk along the Rosbeg pier when he saw a car enter the water. He assessed the situation and ran to the shore where he entered the water and swam out towards the car which was sinking. He grabbed onto the driver of the car and took her to safety. He placed her into the recovery position until the emergency services arrived.


Mr Daragh Lavelle, Mr Kevin Barry

DublinOn the 25th May 2012, at the 40 foot, Sandycove, Dun Laoghaire, Kevin Barry was taking his regular swim when he heard a male shouting for help. He observed two males in trouble in the water.   Without hesitation, Kevin immediately swam to one struggling male, placed his arm around him and brought him to safety. On hearing shouts for help, Daragh entered the water and swam 200 meters out to assist Kevin with the rescue of the other male. He checked the male once at the shore and placed him into the recovery position.


Mr Ian Brennan

On Sunday 7th October 2012, Ian Brennan, a duty manager at Leisureland, Galway, was at work when a call came to reception saying that a person was in difficulty in the water at Salthill. Without hesitation, Ian grabbed a ringbuoy and went to the scene. He entered the water and swam out to the man. He held onto the man until the Galway Lifeboat reached them both. The man was suffering from hypothermia and was taken to hospital where he made a full recovery.


Garda John Callahan

On the 30th August 2010, Garda John Callahan responded to a call at Lough Muckno, Castleblaney, Co Monaghan. He observed a young girl in distress in the water. Without hesitation, Garda Callahan swam to her aid but as he approached the girl, she disappeared under water. Garda Callahan dived under water and brought her to the surface and safely back to shore. The girl made a full recovery.


Mr Colin Lawlor

On the afternoon of the 17th August 2011, at Johns Bridge, on the River Nore, Kilkenny, Colin Lawlor was out running along the riverbank when he noticed a person in distress in the water. He instructed two passersby to call the emergency services. Without any hesitation he grabbed a lifebuoy and then entered the water. The person was tiring and had gone under the water a few times. As he went under again Colin grabbed his wrist and carried him to the bank. Emergency Services arrived and commenced first aid. He made a full recovery.


Mr Brian McLaren

At approximately 6pm on the 12th August 2012 at Mornington Beach, five children were playing in the waves when a riptide swept them out of their depth and they got into difficulty. Brian McLaren observed the children and asked his partner to phone emergency service before entering the water. He swam fifty meters to the children and encouraged four of the children to swim to rocks. He then swam out to the youngest child and upon reaching him he managed to bring him to the breakwater to safety and onto rocks where he performed CPR.   Brian had also drawn the attention of a group of people on Jet Skis.   He instructed the Jet Skier to help him remove the child to the shore. Brian and other members of the public helped carry the other four children off the breakwater to the safety of the shore. All children made a full recovery.


Mr Jack Donohue

At approximately 11pm on the 5th July 2012 a car crashed and plunged into Coosan Point, Athlone. When Jack Donohue arrived at the scene he grabbed a lifebuoy and entered the water. He reached the car and opened the door and put the lifebuoy around the driver and pulled him out of the car and took him to safety where emergency services were waiting. The man made a full recovery.


Mr John Ross, Mr Fergie Kehoe

On the 10th March 2012 a female got into difficulty at Commercial Quay, Wexford. Without any hesitation John Ross and Fergie Kehoe came to the rescue of the woman. They lowered themselves onto a raft and upon reaching the woman John Ross placed a lifebuoy around her and pulled her up onto the raft and took her to safety. The Woman made a full recovery.


Mr Gus Cooney, Ms Deirdre Fitzgerald

On Saturday 26th May 2012, Gus Cooney observed a man had got into difficulty at Glen Strand, Wicklow. Without any hesitation Gus entered the water and with the aid of Deirdre Fitzgerald brought the man to safety. The man made a full recovery.


Ms Beverly Dunne, Ms Lorraine Hamm, Mr Arthur Muizininks, Mr Demitri Agurazov, Mr Norman Kudla.

On the evening of the 10th of August 2012 at Brittas Bay North beach, a ten year old boy was playing with other children at a sand dune when it collapsed suddenly, burying the boy. Friends Beverly Dunne and Lorraine Hann were packing up with their families when their attention was drawn to the area by a boy in distress. It became evident that there was someone trapped. Lorraine telephoned the emergency services. Meanwhile, three friends, Arthur, Demitri and Norman immediately began digging. After approximately twelve minutes they pulled the boy to safety. He began breathing and was taken away by ambulance. He made a full recovery.


Mr PJ Patton (posthumous award), Mr Larry McGonigle (posthumous award), Mr John Patton, Mr Hugh-John            McGonigle

In June of 1955, two men from Ballyshannon set out to bring up their fishing punt, which they had anchored the previous evening. One of the men, Mr McCusker, waded out to it, but he suddenly found himself out of his depth. He tried to swim against the strong current but he could not, his friend tried to reach him but it was too dangerous.

Mr McCusker found himself sucked down by the swirling water yet he continued swimming until he broke the surface. He tried to swim towards the "Black Rock" but was taken by the current again. He spotted an old boat wreck and he managed to grasp it and pull himself up. It was extremely cold. He saw men in the distance and waved. He could feel his feet go numb and he knew he had to try to get his circulation back. Four young men, John Patton now age 78, Larry McGonigle R.I.P., Hugh John McGonigle age 78 and P.J. Patton R.I.P., went to the rescue of Mr McCusker. Upon assessing the situation they got a boat and went out into the channel where the water was bubbling up around them. They dropped an anchor and then let the boat out on a rope trying to get close to the wreck. It took them four attempts before they managed to reach Mr McCusker and eventually managed to get him into the boat. The rescue took over one hour.

Co Clare

Mr Paddy Casey, Mr Peter Downes (posthumous award)

Paddy Casey now 85 years of age, was involved in many rescues during the 1940's, 50's and 60's. Paddy was one of the first officially appointed lifeguards in Ireland at a time when training and equipment were few or non-existent.   Support services were scarce and communication was limited to written and word of mouth. Lifeguards were on their own and reliant on their own skills and knowledge.   Paddy was one of the first members of the Clare Swimming and Life Saving Association.

Paddy was appointed Lifeguard in 1943. Also appointed was Mr Peter Downes. Together they prevented loss of life due to drowning in their years as lifeguards.

On 15th July 1944, Paddy was patrolling Spanish Point beach when he noticed a woman in distress in the water. He immediately reacted and swam to her aid and succeeded in bringing her safely ashore. He was assisted by Peter Downes at the later stages of the rescue.

On the 14th August 1949, at Spanish Point beach, three people got into difficulty. Peter Downes swam to their assistance, The second lifeguard Paddy, observed his companion and rushed to their assistance.   After fighting his way through waves which reached 4-5 feet in height, Paddy brought one of the female swimmers to safety and returned to the water to retrieve a male swimmer. Paddy then entered the water for a third time in search of Peter and the third person who had by now drifted seawards. Both lifeguards took the lady to safety and performed CPR on her and thankfully she recovered well.

In September of 1955, at Spanish Point, despite the warning given to a male swimmer regarding poor bathing conditions, the swimmer entered the water and got into difficulty. Without hesitation Paddy entered the water and succeeded in bringing the exhausted swimmer to safety.

In August 1955, 2 female swimmers got into difficulty at Spanish Point. Both lifeguards Peter Downes and Paddy Casey went to their assistance and brought them to safety.

In July 1956, two students found themselves in danger after they ventured too far out to sea. Again both lifeguards, Paddy Casey and Peter Downes, were to hand and brought the two female students to safety.

In 1957, four young students entered the water at Spanish Point despite having been warned of the dangers of bathing that day. The students got into difficulty and both Paddy and Peter decided that the only safe way to rescue them, due to the inclement conditions, was to take a line either side of them. They entered the water and instructed the four young men to swim to the line and hold on, which they did, and with the help of the lifeguards they were then able to wade to shore.

In 1969 while standing on a cliff overlooking the beach at Spanish Point early one morning, Paddy Casey observed a young woman had got into difficulty in water, her husband a non-swimmer was calling for help. Without hesitation, Paddy entered the water and swam to her and brought her to safety.

From 1944-1962 Fifteen lives were saved - Paddy Casey saved ten lives and Mr Peter Downes R.I.P. saved five lives.

Published in Water Safety Team

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