Water safety warnings have been issued ahead of the bank holiday weekend as dramatic details of the rescue of three young swimmers caught in a deadly rip current off Cork emerged.
Beth Darrer, from Clonakilty, was among several people who risked their lives to save the swimmers during the near-tragedy at Inchydoney.
She said the pals were all lucky to be alive after being swept out to sea.
“It was a very close call. They were lucky with the combination of people who were on the beach at the time and who went to help. I
If we hadn’t been there, at least two and maybe three of them would have drowned seconds later.
The alarm was raised at 2.10pm when four friends got into difficulty while playing with a ball in waist-deep water off Virgin Mary’s Bank on Inchydoney Island.
Ms Darrer and her friend, Niamh McMahon, who both have extensive surfing and lifesaving experience, had been surfing with their children.
Ms Darrer was just finishing lunch and Ms McMahon had gone back in to the surf when Ms
Darrer heard a man scream for help. She urged people on the beach to raise the alarm and grab a lifebuoy as she ran towards the water.
The Courtmacsherry lifeboat was tasked, along with Castlefreke Coast Guard unit, the Shannon-based Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 115, HSE paramedics and Gardaí.
As Ms Darrer waded out, one of the stricken young men was being helped from the water and said his three friends were still in trouble.
Ms Darrer was joined by local teenager, Lynn McCarthy, who also has lifesaving training, before someone handed them a paddleboard.
“Niamh was already paddling over and I knew there were three more out there but I couldn’t see anyone in the water yet,” Ms Darrer said.
“Then we started to swim out and as we went out of our depth, I could see a rip, and the way it was running, so we turned around.
“I then looked up and Niamh had managed to get one of them up onto her surfboard. He vomited and she thought she might have to do CPR, and she had another clinging to her board.
“Then we got to the fourth young man, and we managed to get them all ashore.”
A number of onlookers, including an off-duty fireman, offered help.
Ms Darrer said all four remained calm during their ordeal and said the fact that one of them was a swimming pool lifeguard demonstrated just how easy it is for even experienced swimmers to get caught by rip currents.
They were said to be “hugely appreciative” of the emergency response.
And just over an hour later, two young women who were reported missing while swimming in Glandore Bay turned up safe and well after what was described as a “false alarm with good intent”.
Both incidents prompted rescue services to urge people to exercise extreme caution on or in the water this bank.