Man rescued after 21 hours trapped in cave in north Co Mayo

Man in his 40s said to be reasonably well and in good spirits as he was taken to hospital in helicopter

Clapping and brief whoops signalled a happy ending on Sunday afternoon to the ordeal of a man who had been trapped on a ledge in a cave on the north Mayo coast for 21 hours as the sea surged and ebbed below him.

As a Coastguard helicopter lifted off from Downpatrick Head en route to hospital with the casualty – said to be reasonably well and in good spirits – a small group of his friends, some punching the air with delight, celebrated.

At low tide, the casualty was finally extracted from the cave, less than several hundred metres from the world-famous Dún Briste sea stack.

The man, who is in his 40s, was taken from the cave at about 3.40pm and was able to walk a short distance, said Agatha Hurst, press officer with Ballyglass RNLI lifeboat.


He was said to be safe and well – apart from being cold and hungry. Rescuers speculated that he might have succumbed to hypothermia were it not for the fact that he had been wearing a wet suit.

With an ambulance standing by, the casualty had his medical condition assessed before the helicopter brought him to Sligo University Hospital, where the Coast Guard said he “well and in good spirits”.

At the scene, Garda Supt Gabriel Moran outlined details of the lengthy rescue operation which involved Garda divers, members of the Irish Cave Rescue unit, Ballyglass RNLI lifeboat, members of the Irish Coastguard, gardaí as well as local civilian volunteers including fishermen.

Supt Moran said that rescuers were able to keep in contact with the man throughout the long hours of darkness, shining a light into the cave and verbally reassuring him that help was on the way but would take some time until the tide receded.

The man had been walking the shoreline outside the cave with a woman companion at about 5.30pm on Saturday when they got into difficulties.

Following a wave surge that carried them into the cave, the man managed to get on to a ledge.

His companion was towed to safety by a number of kayakers who were boating in the area.

The cave at Downpatrick Head is well-frequented during the summer months by photographers hoping to get an unusual shot of the local sea stack Dún Briste, a famous tourist attraction as are the soaring cliffs in the vicinity.

Meanwhile, a man was airlifted to hospital after he suffered an injury while hiking in North Clare.

The alarm was raised shortly after 2.00pm when emergency services received a report that a person had fallen on Blackhead Mountain in the Burren.

The National Ambulance Service, Coast Guard and Gardaí were alerted and went to the area. The Shannon-based search and rescue helicopter was also tasked to the scene.

Ambulance paramedics assessed and stabilised the casualty with the help of volunteers from the Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard.

The man was winched on board the helicopter and airlifted to University Hospital Galway for treatment