Those receiving Seiko Just in Time Awards at Dublin Castle included, for the first time, posthumous winners with stories of heroism across the country, from Donegal to West Cork, and Galway to Dublin.
IWS chairwoman Breda Collins also referred to the victims who were not saved — 128 people drowned in Ireland last year, while 40 children have died in the past decade. She also revealed that of all the deaths by drowning in the decade up to the end of last year, 35% had been accidental while 46% were by suicide.
Ms Collins said tackling suicide by drowning was “a great challenge” and said IWS has entered a partnership with Pieta House to extend its work in suicide prevention.
One of the award recipients, Patrick Moss, 21, from Donegal, was aware of the devastating effects of suicide. On Dec 27 last year he was walking with his grand-father on Rosbeg Pier when they noticed a car parked nearby. When it entered the water Patrick ran down to the beach and into the water. Luckily a window had broken and he was able to drag the woman to safety.
He revealed that just three weeks beforehand one of his friends had died by suicide, and that around the same time he was due to play a football match only for it to be postponed because one of the squad had a family bereavement, also because of suicide.
“You are doing it before you know you are doing it,” he said of the rescue. “I was just happy that the window was broken, so I didn’t have to break it.”
He never heard from the woman whose life he saved, but of suicide he said: “It’s a very sensitive issue, especially in Donegal.”
Jason McClay, 19, also from Donegal, received a medal for his life-saving work when he dragged two teenagers from a car that had left the road and dropped into the Crana River near Buncrana on Jun 2 of last year.
He received numerous messages of thanks for his heroism, which involved leaping into the dark water from a height, entering the car through an open window, and dragging two boys from the river.
“You have to make the split-second decision,” he said of the rescue, adding he felt “embarrassed” on receiving his award.
Among others to receive awards yesterday was Bebhinn Crowley, 15, from Clonakilty who spotted a classmate collapse after a race in the Munster Schools Swimming Gala and went to her aid.
Bebhinn also insisted her mother, Alice, receive an award for her work as a swimming instructor.
Beverly Dunne, Lorraine Hamm, Arthur Muizininks, Demetri Agurazov, and Norman Kudla received awards for rescuing a 10-year-old boy buried in a collapsed sand dune at Wicklow’s Brittas Bay, while another recipient was Brian McClaren, who helped rescue five children who got into difficulty at Mornington Beach.