Sylvester Mitorag, 29, said he did not hesitate to take off his jacket and jump into the River Boyne to rescue the man in trouble, saying he had no fear of the water.
The rescue services who came on the scene a few minutes later said there was “no doubt the passer by that entered the water saved the man’s life”.
Speaking from his home in Drogheda, Co Louth, yesterday, Sylvester said he had taken his seven-year-old daughter Wiktoria to the Scotch Hall shopping centre, which is beside the Boyne in Drogheda, on St Stephen’s Day.
It was about 2.15pm and they had just left the centre when he saw a crowd of people had gathered on the riverside and on deLacy bridge, a pedestrian bridge over the river.
“When we finished shopping we saw on the white [pedestrian] bridge, loads of people there and a couple of women were screaming ‘there is someone in the river’.”
“There were maybe 150 to 200 people there and no one jumped in [to save him]. No one did anything.”
Sylvester was determined to rescue him and it took two attempts before he could get into the river. He was in the water about two minutes when the gardaí arrived. They threw him a life-ring, which he took with him as he swam out to grab the man in distress.
“This guy was already going down and I just dived for him. I tried to help him.”
The man was in the middle of the river and Sylvester jumped in ahead of him so he could catch him and pull him to safety as he passed by. He held on to him for about four minutes until boats arrived from the Boyne Fishermen’s Rescue and Recovery service.
“I’m an angler for 20 years, I wasn’t afraid of the water. I didn’t even think what if something happened to me. I just jumped because I was pretty sure I could do this,” he said.
The crew took the man aboard and back to its boathouse on the Marsh Road where paramedics treated him before transferring him to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.
Sylvester was also checked out by the ambulance crew and he then headed home and recounted the story to his girlfriend Edyta.
He said he took action when he saw nobody else jumping in because, “everyone deserves to live, maybe that person has some family who loves him, you know”.
“You are not supposed to die. No matter what somebody did, they should live, he is a human being.”
His daughter watched her father’s actions from the pedestrian bridge and said: “I am very proud of my dad. I didn’t think he would do such a thing.”