By Brian McDonald
A young couple are being hailed as heroes after saving the life of a student who was swept off a cliff face by a giant wave.
The terrifying accident happened at the renowned Wormhole on Inis Mor, the largest of the three Aran Islands off Galway last week.
The Wormhole, which is regularly used as a diving location for the Red Bull Cliff Diving series, is a natural rectangular shaped pool into which the sea ebbs and flow at the bottom of the cliffs south of Dún Aonghasa. It can only be accessed by walking along by the cliffs.
The moments before and immediately after Indian tourist, 21-year-old Apu Gupta, was swept off the rocky ledge are captured in the shocking video uploaded to YouTube.
Apu is shown taking a video from the cliff edge when a giant wave arrives to sweep her off the cliff and onto rocks, 40 feet below and alongside the treacherous Wormhole.
The accident was witnessed by advanced paramedic, Seamus McCarthy and his teacher girlfriend, Fionnuala Quigley who were on a day out in Aran and had dropped by the Wormhole to view it for themselves.
“We were about to go when we saw this girl taking a video by the edge of the cliff. A giant wave came and just swept her off and down onto the rocks below”, said Seamus.
“We could see her almost being swept out to sea, so I took out my phone to dial 999 but there was no reception.
“Fionnuala ran to the nearest house to get help and call the coastguard or whoever and I could see the girl trying to limp away to safety, but she couldn’t manage it.
“Her mother was hysterical and I went over to try to see if I could reach the girl, but I couldn’t. We got down part of the way, but no further — it was very dangerous.
“Other people came and we managed to get an army-type jacket and a backpack and we hooked the jacket onto the backpack”.
The makeshift rescue rope was lowered to Apu and she tightened the backpack around her waist while Seamus and another visitor managed to pull her slowly up the cliff face with one arm of the jacket.
“It was still dangerous on the cliff ledge and we sat her down to calm her before getting her all the way to safety,” said Seamus.
He managed to stabilise her ankle and kept her warm before the rescue helicopter arrived and whisked her across Galway Bay to hospital.
Yesterday Apu said that Seamus and Fionnuala had saved her life. A student of economics in London, she had only started taking a video of the scenery when she saw the giant wave coming at her.
“I tried to run, but it pushed me straight down. It was like being in a waterfall and that probably cushioned the fall.
“I was so scared because I thought the wave was going to come again. My ankle was completely smashed and the pain was bad.
“Seamus saved my life and the policeman there was also wonderful. Everyone was so helpful to me”, said Apu.
Apu’s father, consultant gynaecologist, Professor Krishnendu Gupta flew in from Calcutta to be with his wife at his daughter’s bedside. He was waiting to personally thank Seamus and Fionnuala when they arrived back in Galway from work in Ennis and Limerick respectively last night.
“I only did what anyone would have done”, said Seamus.
Irish water Safety has confirmed that he will receive a Seiko Just in Time award for his lifesaving actions.