A mother has spoken of how she will be bonded for life with a heroic woman who risked her own life to save her 10-year-old daughter from drowning.
In the new series of Liveline Call-back, the two mothers have an emotional reunion on Inch Beach in Cork where Grace Mulrooney almost lost her life when she got dragged into a rip current while jumping in the waves this summer.
Michelle Cremin, who has since been awarded a medal for bravery, had a tearful embrace with the youngster she had powered into the surf to save in the TV series.
Her mother Anne Marie Mulrooney explained how she was visiting the Cork beach with her three smallest children back in July when she spotted her daughter suddenly and unexpectedly floundering after drifting into a riptide.
She said: “I looked at Grace’s face and knew she was in serious difficulty and instantly I knew this was life or death. The waves were crashing over her head.”
As she desperately cried out for help, a woman ran straight into the water.
“She ran in with such courage and determination that I thought she was a lifeguard."
"I believed if it was OK for the lifeguard to go in it was OK for me to go in”, recalled Anne Marie.
Michelle told the programme how she instinctively rushed in to save the child and eventually made way through the rough seas to get hold of her.
“I just had to go in. The first time I felt fear was the waves were coming over me and when I surfaced there was one split second when I couldn’t see her, and I thought it was too late.”
Grace’s mother got within 10 or 25 metres of her but she believed there was a very real possibility she was going to drown.
“She was a rag doll in the water. I kept looking at her extending my hand and said ‘Lord don’t let her die’,” said Anne Marie who called Liveline during the summer looking for the mystery woman who saved her child.
Michelle explained how the panic-stricken child ended up pulling her under the water as she clung on to her neck.
“Anyone would have done that in that situation. I couldn’t breathe because the weight of her was pushing me (down). So that’s when I had to unwrap her arms off my neck.”
At this stage, the dramatic rescue had alerted the attention of another man on the beach, who ran into the waves and plucked Grace out of the water.
In the TV show, Michelle, who is also a mother, becomes overcome as she recalls being overwhelmed with guilt for having to release the little girl in order to breathe during the rescue.
“I struggled hugely. Everyone wanted to congratulate me I was screaming in my head ‘you weren’t there’.”
Michelle said she was very relieved to see a happy Grace running around the beach. “The memory I had of Grace was fear on her face, I really wanted to see her face again and see a smile because that image of her when I let her go was one I needed to replace with a smile.
“We are bonded for life.”
* Liveline Callback will be shown on RTÉ One tomorrow night at 7pm