Fireman who jumped into river nominated for bravery award

A fireman who jumped from a bridge to rescue a woman from drowning in a river is to be nominated for a bravery award.

Fireman who jumped into river nominated for bravery award

[comment] Picture: Sean Curtin[/comment]

A fireman who jumped from a bridge to rescue a woman from drowning in a river is to be nominated for a bravery award.

Eli Brace, 36, performed the dramatic rescue on Saturday when he jumped from Sarsfield Bridge, Limerick on Saturday into the River Shannon.

[comment] Eli Brace (left) and Colm Costelloe of the Swiftwater Rescue Team. (Picture: Sean Curtin)[/comment]

The woman was brought to University Hospital Limerick. She was not seriously injured.

Michael Ryan, chief fire officer, Limerick City Fire and Rescue Service said today he will be issuing a letter of commendation to officer Brace as well as nominating him for a Bravery Award under the Comhairle na Míre Gaile scheme.

"Our fire-fighters and all staff of Limerick Fire and Rescue Service are amongst the most highly trained in the country," Mr Ryan said.

"As part of their regular training they carry out exercises in swift water rescue techniques. Such training came to the fore at the weekend and we are delighted to have played our part in this rescue effort alongside the other emergency services.

"The fire-fighter in question was equipped and trained to enter the water as he did. He was wearing a water rescue dry suit, personal floatation device and a helmet also specifically designed for water rescue."

Officer Brace - who is one of around 50 members of Limerick City Fire and Rescue Service specifically trained to perform river rescues - has played down the rescue saying: "I just jumped at the bridge and that's the bit that everybody seems to be focusing on. It is part of our training."

He added modestly: "In here, rescues are not a big deal. OK, it's a big deal if the girl is OK and she is fine (afterwards) and we're delighted with that.

"But, everybody in here does this stuff week in week out. You come back yesterday and it was, 'Well done Eli', and that's it.

"There's no more said about it. Only for Sean (Curtin) taking the picture nobody would have known anything about it."

He said he and his colleagues risk their lives everyday as part of the job.

"There are lads in here that go into fires everyday and they go into the river everyday and they never get any thanks for it," he said.

"So, it's good that we are getting this highlighted, because it does no harm to the Fire Service and put it out there the stuff that we do. We are going the whole time."

"It's busy but it's very rewarding, there's no other job like it. There is great guys and girls working here."

The married father-of-two from Ennis, Co Clare, described how he and three other water specially trained rescue fire officers were part of an emergency response to the potentially deadly situation on Saturday.

"With river rescues, there is a greater sense of urgency and time is of the essence."

He explained how most of the 60 or so members of the Limerick fire service are qualified as Swift Water Rescue Technicians (SRTs) so they can respond within seconds to river rescue situations.

The SRTs wear special suits which keep give them more support to deal with water rescues.

"They keep us floating in the water and they are highly visible, so if something goes wrong, we can be seen. They also give us the ability to support someone in the water.

"If we do get to somebody we don't have to try and tread the water - we can just basically lie back and they can lie across our chests and then its a matter of the rest of the guys getting to us."

The Shannon-based Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter 115 was on hand to help out in the river rescue but despite dispatching a winchman, he could not reach the woman.

Officer Brace then had to make a split-second decision to jump from the bridge.

"There's a lot of luck involved really," he said.

"We need to get good information from whoever gives us the call and the people in 999 pass the information to us as clearly as they get it.

"As I say, the helicopter couldn't get to her and she was coming towards me on the bridge, so I just jumped in. That was it."

He added: "We train for this. We are qualified Swift Water Rescue Technicians. We train on the river and we train in UL (University of Limerick) so we are used to the river conditons and we have jumped off the bridge in training exercises, so I knew the water was high enough, there was no danger there to me whatsoever.

"All we do when we get the call is go out and do the best we can and we come away home out of it."

Officer Brace -- who was also praised three years ago by the city's mayor for carrying out a similar river rescue of another woman -- said the fire service is using two rafts on the river and hopes to secure a boat later this year.

"We are busy on the river. At the moment of getting our own boat on the river. So, when that happens, hopefully our response times on the river will get even quicker for rescues and make things a lot safer for us as well."

"At the moment we have two rafts and we can paddle on the rafts or we cam swim with the SRT, so we have different lines of defence.

"We can thrown the person a line too, and our last resort is to actually swim to them, but sometimes the last resort is the first thing you have to do because they are too far out (on the river) to throw them a bag, or, if they are unresponsive you have to go get them, and usually we swim with a line attached to us so when we get to the person the other members are able to pull you in."

"Sometime there isn't time for a line and you just have to go with it."

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