Lucky to be alive - Cousins rescued at sea after clinging to a lobster pot for 15 hours

Rescuers hailed as heros after calculating correct location with tidal and weather information

Sara Feeney (23)  taken off the Coast Guard helicopter at UCHG on Thursday. Photograph by Aengus McMahon

Sara Feeney (23) taken off the Coast Guard helicopter at UCHG on Thursday. Photograph by Aengus McMahon

 

The mother of one of two young women rescued at sea after clinging to a lobster pot for 15 hours has said paddleboards would “never darken the doors of our houses again”.

Two cousins, Sara Feeney (23) and Ellen Glynn (17), were reported missing on Wednesday evening by Ms Feeney’s mother who had been on the nearby beach.

They were eventually found, the following day, by local fisherman Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan.

After entering the water at about 9pm on Wednesday, their paddleboards had somehow been swept out to sea, south of Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands on the west coast.

Sarah Feeney’s mother Helen said she had been with the girls and grown increasingly anxious at their failure to return.

“I was just walking the dog on the beach while they went in for the paddle board on the beautiful evening that we had,” she said.

“We had a lovely kind of chat and in good spirits and the next thing they were just going out . . . they seemed to be going out a bit far and I started to be kind of like [thinking] that’s a bit far,” she told RTÉ.

“It just went from the most serene of pictures to a little bit of anxiety and sort of then you’re telling yourself, they’ll be grand.” But the cousins disappeared from sight.

“Horrific, it was the stuff of nightmares,” she said as the situation unfolded. “You’re just living by the second.”

When it grew dark and there was no sign of them coming back to shore, she decided to call the Coastguard and a major search operation got under way.

The rescue initially involved only the RNLI but, as the situation deteriorated, other resources were brought in, including the Aran life boat, Coast Guard helicopters and the Civil Defence. Later, the gardaí, the local flying club and volunteers including sailing clubs all pitched in.

Although the cousins had been wearing lifejackets, they were not wearing wetsuits because of the fine weather conditions and their intention to stay in the water for a just short period.

Hundreds of people combed the south Connemara and north Clare coastline on Thursday morning.

Ms Feeney and Ms Glynn, both from the Knocknacarra area of Galway city, were ultimately found clinging to the buoy of a lobster pot, in good health but shaken by the ordeal. They were transferred by helicopter to University Hospital Galway.

Their rescuers, Patrick Oliver (38) and son Morgan (18) were given a heroes’ welcome when they returned to the docks in Galway on Thursday. They had calculated the correct location with the use of tidal and weather information.

Mr Oliver, who has also served on the Galway Bay Lifeboat crew for a number of years, said the pair had done everything necessary to survive a night that saw a warm sunny evening give way to tempestuous conditions.

“As soon as we got the word they were missing, and with the wind that was there last night and everything else, we kind of predicted where they might have gone,” he said.

“They did everything right. They held on to one another, they didn’t lose touch and it can’t have been easy with the night that was in.”

Although it ended well, Barry Heskin of the RNLI in Galway said the pair were lucky to be alive.

Wednesday had been a “very dark night” with heavy rain, thunder, lightning and high winds, he said.