Gardaí say a woman who dived in to rescue a toddler who had fallen into the River Lee “undoubtedly saved the child’s life”.
The woman, named locally as Maria Foley from Cobh, jumped some 20ft into the water after the boy, aged 3, entered the river by Brian Boru Bridge in Cork City shortly after noon yesterday.
Gardaí say the child ran away from his au pair, who was pushing a one-year-old in a buggy across St Patrick’s Quay. The child then slipped and fell into the river.
The child’s rescuer was a passer-by who witnessed the accident, dived in, and held the child above water until the emergency services arrived.
Sergeant Peter Murphy of Anglesea St Garda Station’s communications centre said the drop from the quay to the river was significant, as the incident occurred near low-tide.
“It was a hugely brave thing to do,” Sgt Murphy said of the rescuer’s actions. “Apart from the fact that it was a 15ft to 20ft drop into cold water, she had no way of knowing what was beneath the surface of the river at the point she entered the water,” he said.
Emergency services were dispatched immediately, with the coast guard alerting a boat in Crosshaven and a 117 helicopter with thermal imaging equipment in Waterford.
Both were stood down after it became apparent that Cork City Fire Brigade would be able to retrieve the pair from the river with harness equipment.
“She undoubtedly saved the child’s life by her swift actions,” said Sgt Murphy.
“There is no way a response team would have gotten to the child that quickly. An adult could sustain itself in the water for long enough for responders to get to them, but a three-year-old would go straight into shock from falling into cold water at that height.”
Both emerged without serious injury but were brought to hospital suffering from mild hypothermia.
The child’s parents, who both work in Cork City, were alerted to the incident. Sgt Murphy said that while the incident thankfully did not lead to significant injury or fatality, it provided a stark reminder of the dangers of open waters.
“Even in broad daylight, in a city centre, the river was the source of severe danger, and this shows the need for extreme vigilance around water at all times,” he said.
St Patrick’s Quay and a lane on the Brian Boru Bridge were briefly closed to facilitate the rescue operation.
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