Two fishermen who were saved off the Cork coast just moments before their vessel sank have been praised for raising the alarm quickly.
The Castletownbere-based Spanish skipper and his Irish crewmate were plucked to safety from a life raft by the crew of Castletownbere RNLI lifeboat near Dursey Island just before 6am.
Paul Stevens, Castletownbere RNLI, said weather conditions were favourable and the crew were able to quickly transfer the fishermen to the lifeboat: “Both are safe and well. They did the right thing and raised the alarm when they got into difficulty.”
The volunteer lifeboat crew was tasked to launch their all-weather craft at 4.45am after reports a fishing vessel was sinking 11 miles south-west of Dursey Island. The lifeboat, under coxswain Brian O’Driscoll and with six crew on board, was under way by 4.55am.
Weather was described as good with a force 3-4 wind and good visibility. Naval vessel LÉ Orla and the Irish Coast Guard’s Rescue 115 helicopter were also tasked, but the helicopter was not needed. Merchant vessel Wilson Weber also responded to the distress call.
The lifeboat arrived on scene of the stricken craft at 5.50am and found the two fishermen in a life raft. Both men were taken aboard the lifeboat and reported to be safe and well. Their fishing vessel sank moments later.
The LÉ Orla monitored the area for pollution risk. The lifeboat arrived back to Castletownbere at around 8am and both men spent the day recovering from their ordeal.
The rescue came as the RNLI launched a hard-hitting campaign aimed at preventing drowning, highlighting the potentially lethal danger posed by cold water.
The Respect the Water campaign, which will run throughout the summer, includes posters, social media messages, and graphic videos, urging people to watch out for key dangers in or near water, including cold water, and unexpected entry into the water. It is mainly aimed at males aged 16-39, but an RNLI spokesman said the advice is relevant to everyone visiting the coast.
RNLI figures show an average of 23 people die through accidental drowning around the coast each year. The RNLI, Irish Water Safety, and the School of Psychology at NUI Galway have developed a database of drowning fatalities, which found 70 people died through accidental drowning between 2010 and 2013.
Joe Moore, RNLI community incident reduction manager, said they want everyone to enjoy the water: “However, it is powerful and unpredictable and people need to treat it with respect.”
“Each year RNLI lifeboat crews rescue hundreds of people around Ireland but sadly, not everyone can be saved. The real tragedy is that many of these deaths could have been prevented. Cold water is a real killer. People often don’t realise how cold our waters can be — even in summer months the water temperature rarely exceeds 12 degrees, which is cold enough to trigger cold water shock.”
He said entering cold water can cause uncontrolled gasping which draws water into your lungs: “The coldness also numbs you, leaving you helpless — unable to swim or shout for help.”
Half of those who drown around our coast each year either slip or are swept in by waves.
A young girl watched in horror as her dad drowned in the river Lee, it emerged yesterday.
An eyewitness to Wednesday night’s tragedy in Ballincollig Regional Park said she tried to comfort the young girl on the river bank as bystanders performed CPR and battled to save the father’s life.
However, despite their efforts and the efforts of paramedics who arrived later, the victim, named locally as Michael O’Driscoll, 45, from Killeens, was pronounced dead in Cork University Hospital a short time later.
Eyewitness, Melanie O’Driscoll was enjoying a picnic in the park with her husband Paul and their daughter when the alarm was raised around 7pm.
She told the Opinion Line on Cork’s 96FM yesterday that Mr O’Driscoll jumped into the river from the park’s weir and got into difficulty.
People shouted to him to stay on his back, as others including her husband Paul tried to reach him, but couldn’t, she said.
The victim was swept away by strong currents before he was eventually retrieved unconscious from the water by onlookers.
Ms O’Driscoll said two nurses and a healthcare worker began CPR on the casualty on the riverbank, and the emergency services were alerted.
But she then discovered that the drowning victim’s daughter had watched the whole tragedy unfold.
“I tried to console the man’s daughter, I was trying to comfort her. But she kept saying ’that’s my dad, please help him, please help him’. It was horrible to see. It was heartbreaking."
She said the people who tried to help were “absolutely heroic”.
“Everybody did their best to help the man. We tried our best to get to him, we just couldn’t,” she said.
Gardaí are preparing a file on the incident for the coroner’s court.
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