Having just finished a sound check before performing in June he spotted a youngster leaping from a bridge. Dempsey saw the youth was in trouble and grabbed a sheet from a van and waded into the river.
“I do a lot of sea swimming and have a good few friends who are lifeguards who say the last thing you ever do is dive into the water if you can help it,” he said. “You need a connection with the land.”
He was among 35 people, including gardaí, yesterday honoured with Irish Water Safety awards.
Between them they saved 22 lives, including Corkman Mick Barry involved in a sea rescue at Coolmaine, near Kilbrittain in West Cork, 31 years ago.
John Leech, the chief executive of Irish Water Safety, said: “All I can do is commend each and every one of these wonderful people, they have saved a lot of families from tragedy.”
Rescue equipment such as lifebuoys were used in some rescues and Mr Leech said the availability and maintenance of public equipment was key to saving lives.
In a rescue in West Cork last May, a lifebuoy was used by two gardaí in saving a man’s life at the main pier in Castletownbere, Co Cork.
Two gardaí, David Fenton and Caroline Guest, were on patrol when they were alerted about a man falling 20ft into the water in the harbour. Garda Guest threw the man a lifebuoy and Garda Fenton entered the water via a rope ladder.
The man in the water was unable to climb up the rope ladder but Garda Fenton got him to hold onto it for support while Garda Guest telephoned lifeboat mechanic Martin O’Donoghue for assistance. While Garda Guest reassured the man in the water, Mr O’Donoghue and Garda Fenton launched a boat and were then able to pull the man out of the water. The man spent a night in hospital after the trauma.
Garda Fenton yesterday told the Irish Examiner the rescue was the natural thing to do. “It feels great to be getting this award, it was part of a day’s work for us, but it was also good for it to be recognised.”
Meanwhile, in a rescue last June at Bunmahon beach in Co Waterford, a lifebuoy helped save the lives of two teenagers. Kieran Laffan and Annie Laffan along with Pat Nolan spotted the teens in trouble. Mr Laffan and Mr Nolan entered the water while Ms Laffan fetched a lifebuoy. They managed to get them out of the water and wrapped them in towels to prevent hypothermia. They waited with them until the emergency services arrived. Both teen recovered.
Other winners included Garda Ciarán Sweeney who swam to help a dazed man in the water at Ballsbridge in Dublin; Garda Peter Daly from Tullamore, Co Offaly, and Garda Darragh Quinn from Mayo who rescued a man at Dun Laoghaire pier as well as Garda Dave Hearne who brought a man ashore from the Colligan River in Dungarvan.