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21-year-old recounts how she rescued family who got into difficulty off Donegal coast

A father and his three daughters got into difficulty in the water off Portsalon beach.

A YOUNG WOMAN has recounted on RTÉ’s Liveline how she rescued a man and his daughters after they got into difficulty off the Donegal coast.

This day last week, 21-year-old Jane Friel was having a picnic on Portsalon beach in Donegal when she overheard a woman on the beach calling for help.

Jane told presenter Joe Duffy that the woman thought her husband and children were drowning. So Jane ran into the sea in her jeans and shirt. 

“I pulled off my jacket, my shoes and my sunglasses and went running towards the water,” she said, adding that she had trained as a lifeguard but had never worked as one.

Jane was given the life ring and swam out to a man and his three daughters, who had got into difficulty after “they got pulled out too far by a riptide”.

The girls appeared to be between the ages of 8 and 13, and although Jane said they could all swim, they had simply gone out too far into the sea.

Jane gave the life ring to the youngest girl who was “visibly upset”, she swam with her a little bit, and someone on the beach pulled her in to shore.

She went back out and calmed the other girl down, getting her to hold on to her bodyboard, and swimming back to shore with her. She told her “if a wave came, we’d kick as hard as we can”.

The father, who told Jane he was not a strong swimmer, was able to bring the third girl back to shore. 

“He did great to even keep them above the water until some was out.”

She said that there was a riptide or something else that pulled the family out.

Even when the first girl got back in and I went out to the second girl, even the distance that it had pulled me out when I turned back around to face the beach it was unbelievable how far we’d even been pulled out, from when I went in. 

“We all got back in safely,” she said. “We were very lucky.”

Jane said she’s been in contact with the family since as they have thanked her.

The RNLI has asked people taking part in water activities to take the following precautions:

  • Have a plan – check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage
  • Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water
  • Don’t allow your family to swim alone
  • Don’t use inflatables at all, at all on the sea
  • If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and Float
  • In an emergency dial 999 or 112, and ask for the Coast Guard.

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