Two off duty Clare lifeguards have been hailed as heroes after saving the life of a swimmer at Spanish Point.
Bernard Cahil and his sister Roisín, who is on holiday at present, dramatically came to the rescue of the middle-aged man, who along with another adult swam into a large rip current which pulled them away from shore at the West Clare beach.
The incident took place at 7:20pm, 20 minutes after their lifeguard service had ended for the day, but they spotted the swimmer’s difficulty while driving past the beach and rushed to their aid.
Roisín borrowed a kayak to rescue the man and Bernard brought him to safety. The rescued man was in a state of shock, but was otherwise uninjured.
“We would never normally be coming through Spanish Point that late,” Bernard told the Clare Champion. “The circumstances that surrounded us being there – you couldn’t make it up, it was so lucky.
“And any other people in the car driving past that situation mightn’t have even spotted him. It’s mad.”
Bernard had spent the day working as a lifeguard on Lahinch beach, before he and a colleague drove to White Strand to pick up Róisín, who had also been working as a lifeguard that day.
They dropped off Bernard’s colleague in Miltown Malbay and headed towards Spanish Point.
“I never usually have to go on a big, long journey home like that, this never happens. It was just me and Róisín in the car and, on the way past Spanish Point, I literally stopped because I saw this person swimming towards the rip current,” added Bernard.
“You would have to be trained to spot that. I just saw him swimming into it, his partner just about made it out. By the time we got down, he was in awful big trouble. He was shouting for help and everything.
“I paddled out to him on the kayak and caught him on to it. At that point, Róisín came in to help me pull him in. She’s a tough cookie. There were definitely two of us in this.
“We are trained to assess the risks. You don’t want one person drowning to turn into two. The rip current was bringing him out but that actually enabled me to get to him faster.
“I didn’t try and swim against it, I kind of went back over to the waves coming in. You can use the conditions to your advantage but all that comes from training with Clare Water Safety (Clare County Council promotion of water safety).
“I said to him that he should go and get checked out if he swallowed water but he said he was ok.
“Initially, he was just shocked. We left to get changed and, when we were finished, we had a little chat. He was very thankful and appreciative and very happy.”
Not a big deal
Bernard described the rescue as “not a big deal”, with both he, his sister and their colleagues regularly called upon to carry out such rescues on the county’s beaches.
“That same evening in Lahinch, the lifeguards had to save seven people from drowning and, in Fanore, they saved eight,” he said.
“What happened in Spanish Point, it’s been highlighted because we were off-duty and he was lucky that we were there. But all of those lives saved are significant.”
The quick thinking actions of Bernard and his sister have been praised by Councillor Tom McNamara, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, and Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council.