A man who rescued four children from a sandbank amidst a fast-rising tide in Co Kerry last summer was among 36 people to receive bravery awards in Dublin Castle yesterday.
“I reckon it could have turned into a huge tragedy if I had done nothing. The children would have been carried away — gone with the tide. The currents there are very, very strong” said Tony Stack, who lives nearby and knew the children were in danger.
The siblings, aged between four and 14, had been playing last July at Barrow Strand and had not noticed the tide had begun to rise to a point where they would not have been able to stand if they had tried to cross the water.
Tony, who was praised for his fast and selfless actions, knew he had to act quickly and went out to the sandbank three times to take the children to safety. “The last time I came back I was tired and quite shook. It was the current more than anything else that sapped my energy,” he said.
Mr Stack attended the Irish Water Safety awards with his three children, who had witnessed their dad’s brave act.
Another award recipient was Richard Galvin from Cork, who last August used a surfboard to rescue a man in distress off Crookhaven beach.
Mr Galvin was at the beach with his wife, Caroline Keating, and two young children when he saw the man in distress.
“I grabbed a surfboard that someone had brought down and went out to the man who had got into difficulty. He had gone out for a swim and went beyond the waves where there are rip currents. He got pulled out further and then had a heart attack while trying to come back in. It was hard to get him onto the surfboard and took quite a bit of manoeuvring.”
Mr Galvin said he had kept in touch with the man who was hospitalised for two weeks but had since made a good recovery.
Also at the ceremony was Sarah Hill, 14, and her friends Patrick Cassidy, Oisín Kerr, Michael Hurst, and Sean Heeney, who rescued her when she fell off a 14ft cliff, known as The Titanic, close to Creevy Pier in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal last July.
“I fell asleep and fell onto a ledge before somersaulting into the water. I broke my collarbone; I tried to swim but couldn’t move my arm.”
Oisín and Sean got her out while Patrick and Michael ran for help.
All of the boys, who had water safety skills, were praised for the way they looked after Sarah.
Minister of state Fergus O’Dowd, who presented all of the rescuers with a Seiko “Just in Time” award, said 12 people drowned over two weeks last July. During the hot spell lifeguards trained and assessed by Irish Water Safety rescued 559 people.
Around 140 people drown every year in Ireland and the Irish Water Safety wants Phil Hogan, the environment minister, to make water safety education mandatory at primary level.
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