Two young women have been found alive south of the Aran island of Inis Oirr over 16 hours after they went missing while paddleboarding in Galway Bay.
The two women, aged 17 and 23, were rescued by a fishing vessel early this afternoon about three miles south of Inis Oírr.
RNLI Galway operations manager Mike Swan said he had been informed they were “talking away” on the deck of the fishing vessel and in good spirits after their overnight ordeal.
Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 115 is due to fly the women into hospital in Galway for medical examinations.
Their rescue was confirmed just before lunchtime after an extensive overnight air and sea search.
RNLI member Barry Heskin told RTÉ radio’s News at One that the women had been wearing buoyancy aids, which “undoubtedly helped them” but they had not been wearing wet suits.
It had been a “very dark night” with heavy rain, thunder, lightning and high winds. “I’m sure they were very scared,” he said.
Fortunately the temperature of the water in Galway Bay had been relatively high recently, he added.
The “phenomenal amount of support” from the people of North Clare and around Galway Bay had meant the search could be divided up and could be spread further afield.
The fisherman who found the women is a crew member of the lifeboat.
Mr Heskin said he did not know how the women ended up where they did or how they survived over night.
When news came through about the safe recovery of the women Mr Heskin said there was “jumping around the station” and a “few tears were shed.
Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton praised emergency serives and local volunteers for their fast response.
"Their quick thinking and bravery have resulted in the safe return of two young ladies to their families today," she said.
"The appreciation of the work of our emergency services can be heard in the shared sigh of relief not just across Galway, but indeed nationwide, as the good news reached us this afternoon. Thankfully this most recent event has had a happy ending; however, it is imperative for us all to be vigilant of the sea and the elements as we enjoy our coastline during the fine weather."
The two women had left Furbo beach after 8pm on Wednesday, and the alarm was raised just after 10pm when they had not returned.
They wearing buoyancy aids, but not wetsuits. Sea conditions were calm but with an offshore north-easterly breeze.
The RNLI Aran island and Galway lifeboats, the Irish Coast Guard’s Shannon and Sligo-based helicopters and Doolin and Costello Coast Guards searched throughout the night.
Mr Swan said that the overnight search had focused on the inner Galway bay area and had extended west to Black Head.
The Marine Institute ocean sciences staff also worked on tide and current modelling to assist the search crews.
The institute, based in Oranmore has also launched its rigid inflatable to assist the sea search, along with a number of fishing vessels, local and visiting angling and leisure craft.
Residents living close to the coast from Barna west to Spiddal had searched the shoreline near their homes, and also took place from Kinvara west to Newquay.
An extensive air and sea search is underway in Galway Bay after two young women who set out on stand-up paddleboards from Furbo last evening failed to return to shore.
The two women, aged 17 and 23 and from Galway, left Furbo beach on the paddleboards together after 8pm on Wednesday.
The alarm was raised just after 10pm when they had not returned.
The women were wearing buoyancy aids, but not wetsuits. Sea conditions were calm at the time but with an offshore north-westerly breeze.
The RNLI Aran island and Galway lifeboats, the Irish Coast Guard’s Shannon and Sligo-based helicopters and Doolin and Costello Coast Guards have been searching throughout the night for the two women.
The Irish Coast Guard Coordination centre at Valentia said in a statement this morning that it is “currently coordinating an extensive search of Galway Bay, after two females aged 17 and 23 who were paddleboarding at the time were reported overdue last night at 10:05pm just off Furbo, Co. Galway”.
“All available air and marine rescue assets are currently being utilised in the search and the Coast Guard are liaising with An Garda Siochana at Salthill in an effort to locate the two missing females.
"Any sightings or information should be reported to the Coast Guard Marine Rescue Sub-Centre at Valentia on 112 or 999,” it said.
Galway RNLI operations manager Mike Swan said that the overnight search had focused on the inner Galway bay area and had extended west to Black Head.
The Marine Institute ocean sciences staff are working on tide and current modelling to assist the search crews.
The institute, based in Oranmore, has also launched its rigid inflatable to assist the sea search, along with a number of fishing vessels, local and visiting angling and leisure craft.
Residents living close to the coast from Barna west to Spiddal have been asked to check the shoreline near their homes, and shore searches are taking place right around the bay