There is a fine line between an emergency having a successful or a tragic outcome, and it is fortunate that the stars aligned to prevent a true disaster at Magheroarty beach on Tuesday.
Fifteen lives were saved in a major rescue operation after swimmers got caught in a riptide at the West Donegal beach yesterday evening
Staff and young students of the local Gael Linn summer college were swimming near the beach when the tide unexpectedly took them out to sea. The majority of the group were teenagers who were in difficulty for approximately 20 minutes as the alarm was raised.
A number of lucky factors combined with the quick action and expertise of emergency crews ensured all 15 were brought to safety.
“We got the emergency 999 calls yesterday from people reporting persons in the water. We scrambled the Sligo Rescue 118 helicopter and lucky enough it was up on an exercise over Donegal Bay,” said Dara O’Malley-Daly, Station Officer with the Coast Guard at Malin Head.
“The local Coast Guard Mulroy team and the HSE ambulances were tasked.
“A pan-pan emergency message was issued to call on any vessel in the sea to come to assist. Luckily there was local fishing boats around and the Tory-Magheraroarty Ferry answered the call.
“We are very fortunate that members of the public phoned in using 999 and we are very lucky that fishermen responded to the call. Between the people on the shore, the local vessels and the emergency services, everyone was saved.
“There is a fine line between success and everything going south, as we say,” Mr O’Malley-Daly said.
The swimmers were treated for shock, cold and the effects of hypothermia. Nine were airlifted to Letterkenny University Hospital and one person was transported by ambulance.
Nine of the group were discharged on Tuesday night after assessments. The college principal was also in the water and is believed to be still in hospital and making a good recovery.
“I can imagine the principal was trying his hardest to save the students,” Mr O’Malley-Daly said.
Riptides can appear in the water around Donegal’s beaches at certain times of the year.
“It is like a river of water going out from the shore. You can’t swim against it. Our advice is to swim parallel to it and you will get out. Then line up with something on the shore and swim ashore,” Mr O’Malley-Daly said.
“It is very frightening when something is pulling you out but the main thing is not to panic, which is easier said than done, the riptide actually dissipates once it goes out for a period of time.
“And if anyone sees someone in difficulty they should call the Coast Guard on 999/112
“The one thing you can’t take back is time, and fortunately there were people on the beach to ring yesterday,” he said.
Mr O’Malley-Daly also advised that people should only swim on lifeguarded beaches.
He said: “Sadly at the station, we have been in situations where people have lost their lives in 5 or 10 seconds. The kids yesterday were in difficulty for about 20 minutes up to when the alarm was raised so thankfully this was a good outcome.”Tags: