A BRAVE garda who tried to save the 13-year-old who drowned on Sunday while swimming in the River Lee has spoken of his complete despair.
“I was just five minutes too late,” said Cork city-based traffic corps Garda sergeant Pat Murphy.
He was speaking as the heartbroken parents of young Kieran Cummins — Caroline Cummins and her partner Alan O’Connor — prepared to bury their son.
Kieran, from Bridevalley Park in Fairhill, was the fourth youngest of 11 children and was just days short of his 14th birthday.
He was attending a youth training programme after leaving Terence McSwiney community college.
He drowned in the river at around 8.30pm on Sunday when an evening with friends turned to tragedy.
He got into difficulty when he and a teenage girl tried to swim out to a pontoon in the centre of the river near Daly’s Bridge, known locally as the Shakey Bridge, close to Fitzgerald’s Park. The river was swollen after heavy rain, the tide was turning and the current was strong at the time.
Of slight build, Kieran went swimming wearing heavy running shoes which may have weighed him down.
Sgt Murphy was on patrol on a motorbike on nearby Parliament Bridge when the alarm was raised.
A member of the Cork Master’s Swimming Club, a former captain of the Garda lifesaving club and a chief organiser of the Lee Swim, Sgt Murphy responded immediately.
“I raced there with lights and sirens on. Because I was on the bike, I was able to drive through the park right to the river bank,” he said.
He dragged the young girl to safety before diving in to the river to look for Kieran.
An eyewitness who was standing on the riverbank with a lifebuoy in his hand pointed to the spot where he saw the teenager go under.
Kieran’s distraught friends watched helplessly as Sgt Murphy dived several times in a desperate attempt to find him. But Kieran was lost.
“I was five minutes too late,” Sgt Murphy said.
“I’ve done hundreds of training rescues but life can be very cruel. I would like to extend my sympathies on behalf of the gardaí to the family.”
Naval divers recovered the body just after midnight in about 10 feet of water, close to where Kieran had last been seen.
His father, some brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins were on the river bank when the body was recovered.
Sgt Murphy said the river is a great place to swim but he urged people to exercise caution.
“A lot of kids swim in the river, especially in this area. But it is over three metres deep at this point, well outside anyone’s limit,” he said.
“And the water is cold and jumping in to cold water can take your breath away.”
He urged people to never swim alone, and to be aware of tides and currents, especially after heavy rain.
He also said the eyewitness who had the lifebuoy made the right decision to stay on the riverbank.
“He was unsure of his own swimming ability. If he had gone in, we could have had a double tragedy,” said Sgt Murphy.
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