Double life-saving hero among 47 water rescuers

John McCarthy in Macroom, Co Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

A father of five from Co Cork who has saved two people from drowning in separate incidents over the last decade, will be among 47 people from across the country who will today be rewarded for the bravery they showed in water rescues.

John McCarthy, from Ballyvourney, Co Cork, was out for an evening walk with his three sons, Luke, Ryan, and Cathal last April when he heard shouting from the nearby Sullane river.

A 60-year-old woman had been trying to remove her dog from the river and had fallen into a deep pool and couldn’t stay upright as she kept slipping on stones lining the riverbed.

She couldn’t swim and was taking in a lot of water as she attempted, unsuccessfully, to stand up.

Mr McCarthy ran to a safer part of the river, jumped in and carried the woman to the riverbank.

Visibly shaken, she returned home that night but had to attend hospital by ambulance later as she had suspected hypothermia.

“The lady was very thankful. She called up to me afterwards with a voucher for dinner at a nearby restaurant,” he said.

“She had genuinely thought she going to die and as she was going under, was thinking people would be questioning how somebody could possibly drown in just five or six feet of water,” he added.

In 1996, Mr McCarthy was driving to work in Bantry at 6am when he rescued another woman from the water.

A strong swimmer, Mr McCarthy said his five children all attended swimming lessons as he says he understands the value of swimming.

A former teacher in Ballyvourney, Sean Kelleher, nominated Mr McCarthy for the Irish Water Safety (IWS) award which will be presented by Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney at Dublin Castle today.

The 47 people who will be rewarded today saved 32 lives in total.

Among those to be honoured are Davitt Walsh and Stephanie Knox who made headlines earlier this year when they rescued four month old, Rionaghac-Ann McGrotty from drowning.

The couple were driving close to Buncrana pier in Co Donegal when they spotted a 4x4 in the water. Mr Walsh, 29, swam 40m to rescue the baby. He handed her to Ms Knox on shore who wrapped her up in her coat until emergency services arrived.

The infant’s father, Sean, and two brothers, aged 12 and eight and Ruth Daniels, 57, and Jodie Lee Daniels, 14, died in the water.

“Tragically, an average of 133 people drown in Ireland every year,” said IWS chairman Martin O’Sullivan.

“And although that’s 133 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 water rescue skills,” he said.

Lifeguards rescued 649 people from drowning nationwide this summer and reunited 662 children found lost near water. Thirty children, aged 14 and under, drowned in the last 10 years.

Representatives from the Irish Naval Service will also receive awards for saving thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean while on humanitarian missions.

Long-Service Awards will also be presented, recognising 1,510 years of personal service of 82 Irish Water Safety volunteers for teaching swimming, rescue and water-survival skills in communities nationwide.


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