LIFE SAVERS Reserve Garda Stephen Corrigan, and Garda Mark Irwin from Westport Garda Station who rescued the man from Lough Coggeen outside Westport.?Pic: Frank Dolan
Hero gardaí save dangerous driver from drowning
Gardaí rushed into lake to save driver’s life
TWO young gardaí were hailed as heroes for saving the life of a Fermanagh man who recently crashed and overturned his car into Lough Coggeen on the Leenane Road, just outside Westport.
Martin McCaffrey (47) of Farranacurkey, Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, was told at Westport Court last Thursday that his life was saved by Garda Mark Irwin and Reserve Garda Stephen Corrigan. The two men waded ‘chest high’ into Lough Coggeen to rescue him after his car became submerged in water.
Mr McCaffrey, who is a bookmaker, was before Westport District Court charged with dangerous driving on October 29 last.
The court heard how Mr McCaffrey’s Ford Focus car left the road, ‘went airborne’ and overturned, landing 15 feet into the lake.
Garda Mark Irwin explained that all he could see of the car was the four wheels before he and Reserve Garda Corrigan waded into the water. Mr McCaffrey was trapped in the car which was submerged in water. An air pocket of just 12 inches remained inside the car.
Garda Irwin told Judge Mary Devins that they could not fully open the door but managed to get their hands inside the car and keep Mr McCaffrey’s head above the water until the fire brigade arrived to free him.
After hearing the evidence, Judge Devins told Garda Irwin that ‘you saved his life, basically’. Garda Irwin acknowledged this but added that Reserve Garda Corrigan was also with him in the water.
Mr James Ward, solicitor for Mr McCaffrey, said his client was deeply grateful to the two young gardaí for saving his life.
Before crashing into the lake, Mr McCaffrey’s car was observed by Garda Irwin at 10pm along the South Mall where it stalled three times. It was then seen driving along Bridge Street with no lights on. The car was being driven in a dangerous manner, swerving over and back on the road, narrowly avoiding parked cars.
The car continued to drive up High Street, where it picked up speed. It then turned onto the Leenane Road at speed, narrowly avoiding contact with the ditch. When Mr McCaffrey overtook another car while going around an ‘extremely bad bend’, Garda Irwin said he decided to stop the pursuit because it was too dangerous and slowed down.
While observing the car in the distance, Garda Irwin said he could see it losing control in the distance and leaving the road as it ‘went airborne’ before landing in the lake. After he was retrieved from the water, Mr McCaffrey was brought to Mayo General Hospital where he was treated for minor injuries.
Mr Ward said his client was a married father of four children, that he was ‘deeply ashamed’ and appalled by his behaviour and that he was was in no doubt that he could have killed someone.
Mr McCaffrey was in Westport for the October Bank Holiday weekend. Mr Ward said he had been drinking and panicked when he saw the Garda siren. He said he was never before a court before and was unlikely to appear in a court again.
Judge Devins disqualified Mr McCaffrey from driving for two years for dangerous driving and fined him €750. She also directed him to pay a further €750 to the the Order of Malta, Garda Irwin and Reserve Garda Corrigan’s charity of choice.