By Amy Ryan
A Cork mother-of-two has spoken of her efforts to save the life of a 10- year-old girl who was swept into the sea off east Cork.
Michelle Cremin battled a strong riptide, and almost drowned herself, in her bid to save Grace from the water off Inch beach in east Cork.
Grace's mother, Ann-Marie Mulrooney had shouted for help after Grace was carried away by strong waves.
"I could see and hear this woman frantically shouting and screaming and pointing towards the sea," she told RTÉ's Liveline today.
When Michelle looked out, she saw that Grace was struggling in the strong currents and she knew that she had to do something to help.
"I know that beach like the back of my hand so I knew the seriousness of the situation.
"I could see men running over from the other side of the beach but I knew in my heart and soul that they wouldn't reach her in time," she added.
Michelle lives 10 minutes away from Inch beach and visits it nearly every second day. She says the part of the sea where the incident happened is treacherous.
"The water was unbelievably rough, I was just being swamped by wave after wave. I don't know how but, I eventually reached her. She had a life vest on so I grabbed onto that.
"At that point she put her arms around my neck, I couldn't keep the two of us above the waves.
"The waves were just pulling us in every direction."
Michelle described the guilt she felt when she was forced to let go of Grace because she couldn't breathe. One of the men had reached Grace and he safely brought her to the shore.
Then she was swept out by the current and began to worry for her own life at this point.
"I didn't think I was going to make it. I remember screaming out for help."
Michelle's partner has lost close relatives,a father and son, at sea. She found herself praying to them for help when she believed she wouldn't make it.
"I wanted to get back to my kids. I pleaded with them, get me out and sure enough the board was thrown at that point.
"I relaxed, I stopped panicking, I knew there was another hurdle to go but I was getting out of there."
Surfers then arrived on the scene and managed throw a boogie board to Michelle and Ann-Marie, Grace's mother, who had also entered the water to try to help the life-saving effort.
She managed to make her way to the rocks that were nearby and grabbed hold of them to keep her from being swept out by the violent waves again.
Michelle had water safety training while she was a child and had formulated a plan before she went into water however, the riptide was too strong for her.
She has been pretty shaken since the event. Michelle has had time to reflect on the incident since it took place and her children have since finished school.
"It's overwhelming. I nearly lost my life and thinking about my kids without their mother, that's difficult too but I don't regret doing it."
Her only regret was entering the water without a life buoy. She said that she knew she went against all the advice by going in without a flotation device, but she says she couldn't stand and watch Grace drown in the water.
Anne-Marie Mulrooney from Nenagh, Co Tipperary, says that Grace would not be here now if it wasn't for Michelle.
Michelle took her two children and two nieces to the beach yesterday to warn them what to look out for. Her daughter relayed the story to their cousins about what happened that day.
She wants to warn people of the danger of the water and to always be aware, to wear a flotation device and to think before acting.
She also noted that this particular area of the beach is very dangerous and called on Cork County Council to put up signs and flags in the area to protect swimmers who are not so knowledgable about the area.
Anne-Marie said she was full of gratitude and praise for Michelle.
"It was a very traumatic and dangerous situation. I was so touched that she chose to put her life at risk for a stranger," she said.
"I was nobody, she didn't know who I was, she didn't know my children. That touched me to the core."
Michelle has arranged to meet Grace next week and said that she looked forward to giving her a hug.