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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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'If 17 people got hit on the roads in a day it'd be huge news' - off-duty lifeguards save man from lethal rip-tide

Brother and sister Bernard and Róisín Cahill were in the right place at the right time to help a stricken bather in Co Clare recently.

2587185681_ecf376afe4_o Spanish Point Source: Peter Merholz

AN OFF-DUTY duo of brother-and-sister lifeguards have been commended after rescuing a man from almost certain drowning on their way home from work.

Bernard and Róisín Cahill, who work in Lahinch in Co Clare, were returning from their own lifeguard shift one evening recently when chance brought them to the nearby area of Spanish Point.

It was to be a particularly fortuitous detour for one man who had gotten himself into trouble in the water.

“I was driving home from work at 7pm, and usually I’d go from Lahinch to Ennis, but we were dropping a colleague home so we were out of the way and we ended up at Spanish Point,” Bernard told TheJournal.ie.

We stopped, and I was on the phone to my Mum, and we saw two people swimming into what we knew was a serious rip current. The lifeguards were finished for the day, otherwise they’d never have been let swim there.
I just said to Mum, we might have a rescue here.

bernard2 Bernard Cahill

When Bernard and Róisín reached the water they realised the male swimmer, who is over 50 and hails from Ennis but was unfamiliar with the rip current, “was in serious trouble”.

“The sea there looks like there’s nothing unusual going on, because the beach is flat. It’s a surf beach. You have to know the current’s there,” says Bernard.

While Bernard swam to the stricken bather (whose female partner had managed to struggle to safety), Róisín borrowed a local’s kayak in order to help.

“It was a two-person job really,” he says. “When we got to him he was in awful trouble, so we got him in the kayak and back to shore. But he knows how lucky he was.”

Bernard describes a strong rip current, a common hazard off Ireland’s west-coast beaches in particular, as like “being on a treadmill”. “If you’re used to it you swim across and use the incoming waves to get away from trouble. But this man didn’t know that. He was trying to fight it”.

The pair have now been commended by Clare County Council for their heroic action. But for Bernard, that isn’t the point.

“We’re not the story, the incident wasn’t a huge thing for us to do, we understand the risks and we know how to deal with them,” he says.

But you have to understand, that day alone there were 17 rescues on Co Clare beaches by lifeguards. People need to know the risks and to swim safely.
If 17 people died on our roads in a day people would certainly sit up and take notice. It would be huge news.

“The woman in this incident, she was in a swim club,” Bernard adds. “And she struggled to get back in. You have to understand the risks of the sea.”

Irish Water Safety has a full guide on how to spot rip currents, and how to escape them, here

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