Man who rescued four stranded children is honoured

Awards honour courage of first responders and other life savers

Who would you like to be “just in time” if you suddenly realised your son was in difficulty swimming in Lough Ree?

Who would you call if your four children were stranded on a sandbank in Co Kerry, with a fast moving tide threatening to engulf them?

This afternoon, Irish Water Safety honoured 36 rescuers who took part in dramatic, near-death, incidents in Irish waters - including the two described above.

During the hot spell in July this year - when 12 people drowned across Ireland in just two weeks - Caolan Naughton from Westmeath was swimming with friends in Lough Ree, when he noticed a young boy in difficulty in the water.

According to the citation for his award, Mr Naughton did not hesitate, but swam to the boy and brought him safely to shore. The citation said it was due to the “quick thinking and selflessness of Mr Naughten that a young boy’s life was saved”.

At least equally as frightening was the potential loss of four siblings from the same family who were playing on a sandbank at Poulgorm, Barrow, Co Kerry, also in July.

Tony Stack noticed the four children - who were aged between four and 14 - in difficulty on the sandbank. They were surrounded by a fast incoming tide. Without hesitation, he entered the water and brought all four children individually to safety. The citation said it if had not been for the fast and selfless actions of Mr Stack, “up to four tragedies could have easily and quickly occurred”.

Also among those honoured was Luas driver Philip Redmond, who was at the controls of his tram in Dublin when a passenger pointed to a lady in distress in the canal.

Mr Redmond, who is a trained lifeguard, immediately notified his control room which then alerted emergency services. He then grabbed a pole from his cab, and encouraged the woman to grab onto it. She did so and he brought her to safety. Emergency services arrived at the scene and tended to the woman. She made a full recovery

At the Boyle River in Co Roscommon Daniel Hughes was swimming in July when he heard shouts for help. He swam downriver towards the shouts and came upon two teenagers in difficulty in the water.

He told them to keep calm, grabbed hold of a girl and pushed a boy towards a rock. He swam to the river bank with the girl and then went back out to the boy and brought him to safety.

The awards also recognised some first responders who were nominated for multiple rescues. Among these was Garda Mark Irwin, who was on duty with Garda John Boyle at an area called ‘The Point’ at the Quays in Westport, when they came upon a car at the edge of the pier.

There was a man in a distressed state standing on the pier and another man in the water. The gardaí threw a lifebuoy but the man in the water was clinging to a ledge and wouldn’t let go. The gardaí then went down a ladder towards him and reached the man and pulled him up the ladder to safety.

Gda Irwin’s second rescue also took place in Westport, Co Mayo. A car with a man in it toppled 5m into Knappaghbeg Lough and landed upside down in the lake.

Gda Irwin and his colleague Garda Stephen Corrigan entered the water but had difficulty opening the car door. Gda Irwin managed to manoeuvre his hand into the car and keep the man’s head above water. The fire brigade arrived 20 minutes later and used cutting equipment to free the man. He was taken to hospital where he made a full recovery.

At a ceremony in St George’s Hall in Dublin Castle this afternoon, the 36 rescuers were presented with a Seiko “Just in Time” award by Minister for State Fergus O’Dowd.

Mr O’Dowd said the tragic drownings during this summer’s warm weather brought home the need for constant vigilance around water.

“Tragically, an average of 140 drownings occur in Ireland every year,” said Mr O’Dowd. “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.”