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Clare County Council lifeguard Bernard Cahill pictured with Cathaoirleach Tom McNamara (left), and Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council at Áras Contae an Chláir in Ennis.

Siblings hailed as heroes after dramatic rescue

A CLARE brother and sister, hailed as heroes after saving a swimmer from a rip current in Spanish Point, have revealed it was “lucky” circumstances that resulted in them being in the right place at the right time.

Bernard and Róisín Cahill from Clarecastle dashed from their car after spotting a swimmer in trouble in the sea off the West Clare beach.  The quick-thinking off-duty lifeguards leapt into action, using a borrowed kayak to rescue the middle-aged man and bring him to safety.

“We would never normally be coming through Spanish Point that late. 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,” said Bernard.

After spending the day working as a lifeguard on Lahinch beach, he and a colleague travelled 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.

“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,” Bernard recalled.

Róisín got some kayakers to give them a kayak so they could set out and rescue the man. “I asked Róisín would she mind if I went out because I’m a little bit older. 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 asses 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.”

The rescued man was in a state of shock following the incident. However, he did not sustain any injuries.

“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,” he added.

Bernard believes the rescued man is “very lucky – he probably shouldn’t be alive at all”.
The modest lifeguard described the rescue as “not a big deal”, pointing out that he, his sister and their colleagues are regularly called on to carry out 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. 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.”

He also praised Clare County Council for its promotion of water safety. “The water safety development officer with Clare County Council put on lifeguards on the Tuesday and the Wednesday because it was still nice. On those days, we had one rescue in Lahinch and an ambulance was called for an elderly lady, who had an accident on the beach.

“It’s great to see Clare County Council and the lifeguards working together to make the beaches safer.”
Tributes were paid to the pair at last week’s meeting of the Ennis Municipal District while they were also applauded for their bravery by Cathaoirleach Clare County Council, Tom McNamara and CEO, Pat Dowling.

Jessica Quinn

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