Dean Byrne, originally from Balbriggan, Co Dublin, but now living in Virginia, Co Cavan, was on family day out with his wife Monica and their children at Killykeen Lake in late July when he was made aware of two young children in difficulty in the water.
When he swam out to try and get them back to shore, he was horrified to discover their mother who was carrying her youngest child was submerged underneath the water.
“Initially Monica tried to get out to them, but almost as soon as you leave the bank, there is a sheer drop which means you are in water with a depth of seven or eight feet, and she was unable to get past that.
“I’m a strong enough swimmer, but as soon as I got in the water I realised how deep it was as my feet never touched the ground,” he said.
“At first, I thought it was just the two kids in difficulty and all my focus was on them. But as I got closer I realised there was a woman and a baby struggling beneath the surface.”
He said all he could see was the woman’s face and her clothes.
“So I made a grab for her and lucky enough I caught her first go,” he said.
“It was only when I brought her above the water I discovered she was carrying a toddler in her arms, I couldn’t believe it. I took her in my right hand and held the other kids in my left and just pulled them back to shore, it was one of those situations where you didn’t have time to think, the adrenalin took over.”
The lake is notorious for its treacherous waters. Johnathan Mongan, a 16-year-old boy from Cavan town, drowned there three years ago.
“There needs to be more warning signage about how dangerous it is, there was just a drop there, just a couple of feet out so I’m not surprised anyone got into difficulty there, especially if they’re not confident swimmers,” Mr Byrne said.
“I don’t feel like a hero, I just did what needed to be done on the day.”
Meanwhile, a 22-year-old Irish J1 student is in serious condition in hospital after getting into difficulty while swimming in Ocean City in Maryland on Wednesday.
According to Ocean City Fire Department which responded to a 911 call at 6.30am, four people had taken to the water but then began to struggle.
One of them managed to make it to shore and call emergency services. The fire department’s rescue swimmers managed to get two others to shore.
However, the Irish student began suffering from apparent cardiac arrest.
The victim was immediately given CPR and taken to Atlantic General Hospital in very serious condition.