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Brush with death: 'I was fighting for air, spitting out sea water as the waves broke over my head'

Colm Plunkett does not think he would be alive today if he had not been wearing a lifejacket.

TheJournal Video / YouTube

COLM PLUNKETT AND his daughter Orlaith were fishing together in West Cork on a beautiful summer’s day this year.

It was like any other day at their usual spot until a sudden change in the swells. A huge wave crashed over Colm, dragging him into the sea.

“Everything was white, it was like being in a washing machine,” he recalled.

I was concerned that my daughter was going to see me drown because I did honestly believe I was going to die.

The man’s lifejacket opened as soon as he hit the water and that brought him back to the surface. 16-year-old Orlaith immediately called the Coast Guard.

For the first 15 to 20 minutes I was swept by the current out to sea. I spent 30 minutes or so fighting to get air into my lungs while spitting sea water out of my mouth; as the waves broke over my head and the water ran down my face. Much to my relief the current then pushed me back towards the land and to calmer waters. My state of exhaustion and oncoming hypothermia prevented me from reaching the shore but my daughter shouted to me that help was on the way and, for the first time my spirits rose.

After another ten minutes in the water, a rescue boat reached Colm who was brought to shore with a life-threateningly low temperature.

The experienced shore angler says it could have been a very different story had he not been wearing his lifejacket.

“If you are not wearing a lifejacket you are as good as dead.”

The RNLI this week launched a safety campaign warning anglers to put their safety first:

  • If fishing from the shoreline, wear a lifejacket;
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back;
  • Carry a means of calling for help.

The campaign forms part of the RNLI’s work to halve the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024.

Read: An average of 135 people drown in Ireland each year – how to protect yourself>

Read: Deadly Lion’s mane jellyfish spotted in Dublin Bay>

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