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Hero gardaí save man from icy fate

Hero gardaí save man from icy fate

One Westport garda saves two men in three weeks

Edwin McGreal

A young man owes his life to the actions of two alert, quick-thinking and brave Westport gardaí. The man, believed to be from the Louisburgh area, was rescued by the gardaí from freezing waters at Westport Quay in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Garda John Boyle and Garda Mark Irwin were doing a circuit of the quay in a squad car at 4am on Sunday when, in the darkness, towards the area of the quay known as The Point, Garda Irwin spotted a man in a frenzied state.
Three weeks earlier, Garda Irwin had, together with reserve Garda Stephen Corrigan, rescued a man who had crashed into a lake near Westport. He was about to encounter a man in another dramatically perilous situation.
As they drove towards The Point, the gardaí saw a car hanging over the edge of the water. The man they had first seen was now asking them for help – his friend was in the water and in grave danger.

Freezing water
The car had crashed into the pier at an angle. When the passenger got out, he stepped onto dry land. However when the driver left the car, he dropped straight into the water. It was high tide, up to 20-feet deep, and it was freezing cold.
As the gardaí looked over they saw that, 15 feet below, the driver of the car was holding onto a ledge for dear life. The ledge itself was under water but he was able to keep his head above water. With the freezing conditions he could lose his grip any moment. The two gardaí made a quick decision: There was no time to wait for assistance, this man would not survive much longer.
When efforts to rescue him with a life-buoy failed, the gardaí decided to go down to help him.
A fixed-ladder on the quay wall was located a few yards away. The gardaí descended the ladder onto the ledge, where the water rose past their knees. Garda Irwin described the water as ‘icy cold’, while Garda Boyle added that the lack of lights meant they couldn’t see what they were doing,
Undeterred they both inched towards the stranded victim and managed to work with him to pull him out of the water. They then carefully escorted him along the ledge, up the ladder and to safety. One wrong move and all three could have fallen into the cold, open water and lost their lives.

Extra step
To add to sense of heroism, neither garda considers himself a strong swimmer, with Garda Irwin admitting that he can barely swim at all. That makes it all the more incredible to think he’s saved two men from life-threatening situations in water in three weeks.
“It is a split-second decision … If it ever happened again, you’d do the same thing,” Garda Irwin told The Mayo News. “You’ve no time to think, you often disregard your own personal safety to save someone. Either of us could have gone into the water. It is the nature of our job, sometimes you need to go the extra step,” he added.

The gardaí’s presence in the area was pure luck. Garda Boyle admits that the man they rescued, who is in his 20s, “has no right to be sitting up and talking today when you consider the location.”
“It was a very busy Saturday night and we were probably well due a cup of tea and a break back at the Station but we decided to take a spin out The Quay because you just never know. Credit to Mark, it was very dark, but he saw a guy with his hands on his head in anguish a good distance from where we were. The man went to flag us down, and he was lucky too that we saw him.
“I’d be confident that if we didn’t get there at that time, he was a goner. Even if we got a call if we were at the station, I don’t think we would have got there in time. He was very lucky,” admitted Garda Boyle.
“Even when we got him up on the road he was shaking violently and I was worried, I thought he might still be in grave danger.”
The pair put some warm clothes on the man and he was taken by ambulance to Mayo General Hospital and he was released on Sunday afternoon. The car was towed to safety. An investigation into the nature of the accident is now under way.
Sergeant Denis Harrington from Westport Garda Station commended both gardai for the ‘extreme bravery’ they showed, adding that both gardai were ‘a credit to An Garda Siochána’.

Lake rescue

On October 29 last Garda Irwin and Reserve Garda Stephen Corrigan waded ‘chest high’ into Lough Coggeen on the Leenane Road, Westport to rescue Martin McCaffrey from Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, whose car had left the road, overturned and landed in the lake.
Westport District Court subsequently heard that only a 12-inch air pocket remained in the car. The two gardaí managed to get their hands into the car and keep Mr McCaffrey’s head above the water until the fire brigade arrived to free him.
Judge Mary Devins said in court: ‘You saved his life, basically’.

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