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Student swept into sea as friends watched helplessly

Achill cliffs
RECOVERY MISSION Rescuers from the Coast Guard and An Garda Siochana on the Atlantic Drive at Cloughmore, Achill attempting to recover the body of Finnish student Markus Nieminen who was swept into the sea last Thursday.?Pic: Paul Mealey

Student swept into sea as friends watched helplessly

Anton McNulty

A Finnish student told friends to take one more picture of him with the sea behind him just moments before a wave swept him into the Atlantic, claiming his life.
The body of 23-year-old Markus Nieminen was recovered from the sea off the Achill coast at Cloughmore on Saturday evening, two days after the wave pulled him into the water on Thursday afternoon.
The Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) student was being photographed on rocks along the Atlantic Drive with his back to the sea when a wave hit him from behind and swept him into the sea. Mr Nieminen was with three other students from WIT and had asked them to take one more photograph before they continued on their journey.
The three friends saw the wave pull Mr Nieminen into the sea, and two of them ran to a nearby house to raise the alarm and get a rope to try to retrieve their friend. Mr Nieminen tried to swim to the shore, but he was unable to do so due to the force and ferocity of the sea, and he was unable to be saved.

Finnish student Markus Nieminen.
Finnish student Markus Nieminen.

Distressing recovery operation
The incident took place at 12.15pm on Thursday and a major recovery operation involving the Achill Coast Guard, the Coast Guard helicopter, the local RNLI lifeboat, Gardaí, local fishermen and divers was launched to find Mr Nieminen.
The body was soon found, but due to its location and the force of the waves, emergency services were unable to retrieve it from the water. A number of attempts using nets were made but to no avail. The body of Mr Nieminen remained in the water until 6.28pm on Saturday evening when a brief window in the conditions allowed the Coast Guard to retrieve the body.
A spokesperson for the Achill Coast Guard told The Mayo News that this was one of the most ‘frustrating’ and ‘trying’ rescues they have been involved in and thanked all the different organisations and personnel involved in retrieving the body.
“This was a very trying and difficult rescue because the conditions were so difficult to deal with. There was no let up with the sea. You could not send anyone into the sea because the waves would smash you against the rocks and it would be putting more lives in danger. The lifeboat could not get close enough because of the rocks and the helicopter would not let a winchman near the water. You could see the casualty but we just could not get to him and that was frustrating and distressing,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Nieminen’s body was brought to Mayo General Hospital where a postmortem is due to take place later in the week. It is expected an inquest will take place at the end of the week to allow the body to be repatriated back to Finland.
Mr Nieminen was a native of Lappeenranta in south eastern Finland and was an Erasmus student in Waterford Institute of Technology. He and his three friends – a fellow Finn, a French national and a Czech national – had hired a car and were travelling around Ireland together.
Following the tragedy, the three friends were provided with accommodation and were treated for shock by a local doctor.
Mr Nieminen’s father Jukka and his mother, Minna Minkkinen are due to arrive in Ireland later this week. Inspector Joe McKenna said they wished to thank all the emergency services involved in the search and rescue of their son.
“They would like to thank all the emergency services and the local people for all they did to rescue their son. They are very sad but relieved to be able to bring their son home and could not get over the huge effort to retrieve his body,” he said.
Insp McKenna and the Coast Guard also thanked the local people who provided hot drinks and food for all the emergency services and the local volunteers.