Four teenage girls who were seeking to contact a group of bodyboarders who rescued them after they got into difficulty while swimming in Bundoran, Co Donegal, on Saturday have identified their life-saving heroes.Malin Head Coast Guard had scrambled Sligo's Rescue 118 Helicopter and launched Bundoran RNLI Lifeboat following a distress call from a member of the public alerting them to the girl's plight who were caught in a strong riptide current.
The girls were airlifted to Sligo University Hospital by Rescue 118 as a precautionary measure and were subsequently given the all-clear and discharged.
In a statement, Bundoran RNLI said: “On arrival the girls had already been helped to safety by a number of bodyboarders who were in the water at Main Beach at the time."John Flannery, his girlfriend Roisin Treanor and her brother Martin Treanor came to the girls’ aid after they got caught up in a rip current.
The body boarders happened to be in Bundoran for the weekend. Mr Flannery a HSQE Support Officer at Irish Water from Emyvale, Co Monaghan, said, “It was shortly after 6 o’clock we noticed four girls had gone into the water. They were only five or six feet in the water but I had noticed before we got in that there was a rip current there and we’d actually moved to the side away from it.
“Within five minutes I noticed the four girls had drifted out and they were actually in pairs at different locations. We noticed a man started whistling at them from the side of the beach and it looked like the mother was there as well. She started panicking and she said she needed help.
“Because I had a boogie board I said I’d go out even though I was a bit apprehensive because the situation with rip currents can be very dangerous. So I floated out on the boogie board to the first two and there was a young girl there in a panic."'Screaming'
Mr Flannery continued, “She was screaming for help and things like that so I got the girls to hold on to the boogie board but when we tried to get back in - with the force of the current I couldn’t swim against it. So my girlfriend and her brother Martin and a fisherman had grabbed a life ring from on the beach and threw it out so I swam over to the life ring and I dragged the life ring back out to the first two girls and the others were able to pull us in to the shore.
“The wee girl started shouting that her sisters were further out so again I got the board and Martin got his board as well. We floated out and just sort of sat with the two girls. We tried to get back in against the current and again it was next to impossible so we got the life ring from shore again. People assisted and threw the rope and the life ring back in to us. As soon as I saw the ring, I swam out to it and got it back in and they pulled us in.
“A few minutes later the lifeboat had come around the corner and also the helicopter had landed too and the guards were there on the scene so it was quick response from them. Had it been a couple of minutes more and the girls didn’t get help I’d say they were in serious trouble because they were getting tired and physically exhausted.
“They were very lucky, it could have been a lot worse. Another five minutes and they could have been gone,” Mr Flannery said.
Rip currents are channels of water that flow away from the shore and out to sea. Swimmers are advised to escape them by swimming parellel to the shore. In this instance, Mr Flannery said he was concerned that the teenage girls, who were already tired, would not have had enough energy to swim out of the current.A number of RNLI volunteer shore crew, trained in casualty care, also attended the scene and assisted the girls until the arrival of the Sligo based Rescue 118 helicopter which landed in Bundoran's Astoria car park.
Everything happened so quickly, the girls were unable to get the names of the people who saved them and decided to launch a nationwide appeal.
After hearing the appeal on the radio yesterday morning, Mr Flannery got in contact with Bundoran RNLI Lifeboat and Rescue who have arranged for the girls to contact the trio later today, Wednesday.
“I suppose the main thing we should take from this is people need to be careful with rip currents, I’m just glad that they are all okay,” Mr Flannery said.RNLI have issued the following advice for anyone who is caught in a rip current:
* Don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted.
* If you can stand, wade don’t swim.
* If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore.
* Always raise your hand and shout for help.