Couple hailed as heroes after rescuing student swept off cliff

Tourist Apu Gupta (21) was carried off ledge by giant wave at Wormhole in Inis Mór

The accident happened at the renowned Wormhole on Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands off Galway, last week. Photograph: David Dunne.

The accident happened at the renowned Wormhole on Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands off Galway, last week. Photograph: David Dunne.

 

A young couple were being hailed as heroes after saving the life of a student who was swept off a cliff face and into the sea by a giant wave.

The accident happened at the renowned Wormhole on Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands off Galway, last week.

The Wormhole is a natural rectangular shaped pool into which the sea ebbs and flow at the bottom of the cliffs south of Dún Aonghasa. It can only be accessed by walking along the cliffs. The Wormhole is regularly used as a diving location.

The moments before and immediately after Indian tourist Apu Gupta (21) was swept off the rocky ledge are captured in a video uploaded to YouTube.

Ms Gupta is shown taking a video from the cliff edge when a giant wave sweeps her onto rocks 40ft below alongside the Wormhole.

The accident was witnessed by paramedic Seamus McCarthy and teacher Fionnuala Quigley, who were on their way to visit the Wormhole .

“We were about to go when we saw this girl taking a video by the edge of the cliff. A giant wave came and just swept her off and down onto the rocks below,” Mr McCarthy said.

“We could see her almost being swept out to sea, so I took out my phone to dial 999 but there was no reception.

Video

“Fionnuala ran to the nearest house to get help and call the coastguard or whoever . . . I could see the girl trying to limp away to safety, but she couldn’t manage it.

“Her mother was hysterical and I went over to try to see if I could reach the girl, but I couldn’t. We got down part of the way, but no further - it was very dangerous.

“Other people came and we managed to get an army-type jacket and a backpack and we hooked the jacket onto the backpack.”

Makeshift rope

The makeshift rescue rope was lowered to Ms Gupta. She tightened the backpack around her waist while Mr McCarthy and another visitor managed to pull her slowly up the cliff face with one arm of the jacket.

“It was still dangerous on the cliff ledge and we sat her down to calm her before getting her all the way to safety,” Mr McCarthy said.

He managed to stabilise her ankle and kept her warm before the rescue helicopter arrived and whisked her across Galway Bay to a hospital.

Yesterday Ms Gupta said that the couple had saved her life. A student of economics in London, she had only started taking a video of the scenery when she saw the giant wave coming at her.

“I tried to run, but it pushed me straight down. It was like being in a waterfall and that probably cushioned the fall.

“I was so scared because I thought the wave was going to come again. My ankle was completely smashed and the pain was bad.

“Seamus saved my life and the policeman there was also wonderful. Everyone was so helpful to me.”

Ms Gupta’s father, consultant gynaecologist Prof Krishnendu Gupta, flew in from Calcutta to be with his wife at his daughter’s bedside. He was waiting to personally thank Mr McCarthy and Ms Quigley when they arrived back in Galway from work in Ennis and Limerick last night.

“I only did what anyone would have done,” Mr McCarthy said.

Irish Water Safety has confirmed that Mr McCarthy will receive a Seiko Just in Time award for his lifesaving actions.