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'We said there was no point in being panicky, and we'd be fine': Teenager rescued from sea in Galway tells her story

The paddle boarders rescued yesterday morning were “shaking like leaves” with the cold overnight.

Image: Declan Colohan

PADDLE BOARDER ELLEN Glynn, who was rescued off the Galway coast yesterday after being swept out to sea the previous night, remained calm while spending 15 hours at sea by resolving that there was “no point in being panicky and that we’d be fine”.

Glynn and her cousin Sara Feeney, aged 17 and 23, were found off Inis Oirr yesterday morning after a search and rescue operation launched by the Irish Coast Guard on Wednesday night.

The pair had gone paddle boarding from Furbo Beach at around 9pm when they were swept away from the coast by a sudden north wind and blown out to sea.

Speaking to Today with Sarah McInerney this morning on RTÉ, Glynn, who has experience paddle boarding, said that they “just went out a little bit because there were people swimming, and then the winds came quickly”.

“We were distracted because we were talking and didn’t realise how far out it took us, and the waves and wind got really strong all very quickly, so we knew we weren’t going to be able to get back in.”

Glynn said that she and her cousin were a “bit panicky” at first, but “we said that there was no point in being panicky and that we’d be fine”.

They tried to paddle in, but the strength of the waves meant that they couldn’t come in to the coast. 

The women kept themselves together and in one place overnight by tying their paddle boards to a buoy and to each other.

We had realised we weren’t going to get anywhere so we were looking around, we didn’t see anything anywhere, and then saw the buoys. It was like a blessing.

“There was a strap on my paddle board that had a clip on it, so I took that off and clipped it onto the other paddle board.

“There are leads on paddle boards to connect to your ankle, so if you fall off in the water, you don’t get separated from the board.

“We swapped leads so we were connected into each other’s paddle boards.”

Weathering the storm

The women were wearing swimsuits instead of wetsuits, and the weather overnight proved to be one of the most difficult challenges they faced.

“The water was warm, but as soon as the sun went down it got really cold outside. The wind was getting heavier, and then there was thunder and lightning and heavy rain, so we were absolutely frozen.”

“I think that we were quite sure we were going to be found. The only think I was worried about was how cold we were – we were shaking like leaves.”

During the night, there were times when the women could see search boats in the water, but the boats couldn’t find them.

“At one point it was really really close and we thought for sure [that it would find them].

“As well, with the helicopter, it stopped really near us and we thought the light was hitting us, but apparently not – we got a bit unlucky with that,” she said.

“This morning when we woke up, it was dark, so we couldn’t tell where we were going and we had drifted out,” Glynn said.

“The waves were huge and splashing down on top over us and flinging us all over the place, so for a while, that was scary.

Morning rescue

The Irish Coast Guard had launched a search and rescue operation on Wednesday night after Sara Feeney’s mother raised the alarm.

The operation continued throughout the night and attracted the aid of multiple coastal agencies.

 When morning came, the women began to lose track of time, and believed it was later in the day than it was.

“We thought it was evening time. We thought it was about 5 o’clock and we hadn’t seen a single boat.”

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The pair began to think that nobody was looking for them.

They were discovered by Patrick Oliver, a former Galway RNLI lifeboat crew member and current shore crew member and fisherman, and his son Morgan.

“Out in the distance, we saw a boat and waved our paddles in the air like crazy, and that was the Olivers, and they came to save us.”

“I didn’t know they were out looking for us, I thought they were just out fishing.

“We’re so, so grateful. I’ve no idea what would have had happened if they hadn’t found us.”

Glynn said she felt fine in the water on the paddle board, but when she stood up to get into the boat, her legs collapsed under her.

“We were very shaky getting on to the boat but they wrapped us up in the corner and gave us drinks and everything, so they were very good to us.”

A speedy recovery

Feeney was released from the hospital yesterday evening, while Glynn stayed overnight and is due to be released this evening or tomorrow morning.

“We’re okay. There’s something with my muscle enzymes, but I’m fine.”

Glynn credited their life jackets as vital to their survival.

“We probably would have been panicking if we didn’t have those on. We knew at least that if anything happened to the paddle boards, we would still have those on.” 

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