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The incident occurred at the pier at Seafield, Quilty. Photograph by John Kelly

Hero lifeguard: ‘it was over before I thought about it’


A WEST Clare pool lifeguard has been hailed a “hero” after rescuing a young girl who fell into the water at the rear of Seafield Pier in Quilty.

Leah Peters (7) was visiting Seafield pier, in Quilty, West Clare, when she fell from the pier into the water. Her mother, Julie, has described the incident as her “worst nightmare”.

Patrick Mungovan (25), was walking his dog along the pier last week when he heard the girl’s mother calling for help. The mother-of-three had a baby in a pram and another older child.
This was the first time that Mr Mungovan had to use his life-saving skills in an emergency situation.

“I was just there for a walk with the dog, I saw this lady screaming and crying. She was lucky I just happened to be there in the right place at the right time.

Mr Mungovan has been a lifeguard since he was 16 years of age, and was providing swimming lessons to children in the local area before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Every two years, he travels to Marian College in Dublin to renew and update his qualifications. He said that upon reaching the mother, he saw the girl in the water, struggling to stay afloat.
“I just went in, you wouldn’t even think of it, I was out before I thought about it. I just dropped the dog’s lead and jumped in.

Mr Mungovan rescued the child from the water, and brought her safely back up onto the pier.

“It was over before I thought about it, it happened so fast. She was coughing and stuff, I told them to get her checked out to be sure. A person can get a thing called secondary drowning where water can get into your lungs and potentially they could die in their sleep without knowing there is a serious problem.

“Her mother said she fell in, it only took a second to happen. At least it was a good outcome.”

He confirmed even adults couldn’t stand up in the water where Leah fell in. After emerging from the sea with the girl, her mother was hugging him and crying.

He advised people swimming in the sea to swim parallel to the shore, and to be conscious that a current can sweep a person out much further depending on the weather.

A few days later, Leah sent Mr Mungovan a card with a picture of a superhero, thanking him for saving her life, and also provided him with a new iPhone, as his phone was in his pocket when he dived in.

In a statement issued to The Clare Champion, Julie Peters, who is terrified of the water, recalled she was visiting Quilty for a few days holidays with her husband and three kids.

They decided on the fine day to go out for a walk to the pier, her daughter, Leah slipped off the pier and ended up in the water.

“I am absolutely terrified of the water so my worst nightmare was happening right there in front of me. I panicked and screamed I didn’t know how to react to what was happening it all happened so fast.

“Patrick was walking with his dog when he heard my screams, he came running down the pier to me and without hesitation went straight into the water fully clothed even with his iPhone still in his pocket.

“I can only describe him as an absolute hero and I know that my daughter wouldn’t be here with us today if it were not for him that day. He deserves so much recognition for this and my family will be forever in debt to him for saving our little girl.

“We will never forget this ordeal but we are so so glad that the outcome was the best. I have never been more scared in all my life to see my daughter struggling to breathe and unable to stand in the deep water. The fright and panic of it all will never leave us.”

By Dan Danaher

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