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Dublin: 6 °C Wednesday 26 February, 2020
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Watch: Amazingly, there was a paramedic just metres away - when this woman was swept off a cliff

The woman fell around 40 feet onto rocks last Wednesday – sparking a dramatic rescue.

THE SMALL GROUP of tourists who saw the young Indian woman being swept off the cliffs near Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór last Wednesday feared the worst.

The first thought that occurred to Seamus McCarthy – an advanced paramedic based in Ennis, who just happened to be on the island with his girlfriend for a short break – was to wonder if she had killed and been swept out sea.

Suddenly, however, the 21-year-old’s backpack appeared in the waves below – followed a few seconds later by the figure of the girl herself – struggling up towards the cliffs, but trapped on the surface below with the waves crashing about her.

This is the moment she was swept off the cliff:

Source: BrianSmithMusic/YouTube

Seamus has been put forward for an award in the wake of the dramatic rescue effort that unfolded over the following minutes.

But, speaking to TheJournal.ie, the paramedic insisted it had been a group effort – and that his girlfriend, Fionnuala Quigley, fellow tourists, the Coast Guard and local garda all played a part in saving the young woman from further injury.

The rescue

“I took out my phone – but I could barely dial, my hands were shaking so badly.

“It turned out, of course, that none of us could get reception – we were on the Aran Islands and surrounded by rocks.

Fionnuala ran off to get help, with two Canadians – but the nearest house was still 20 minutes away

As they waited, Seamus and the young tourist’s mother – who was, he said, in a “hysterical” state – tried to reach the girl from the cliffs.

“We started climbing down the ledges to the cliff – and she had climbed around the base of the cliff and onto a boulder.”

He tried to lean over to pull her up, but could barely make contact – and was concerned that any hasty moves would result in the woman slipping and falling again. A change of tactic was needed.

“So I just asked around to see if there was anyone with a strong jacket.”

Someone did – a “strong army jacket”. Seamus and the other tourists attached one arm of it to a backpack with a waist-belt – and lowered it down to the increasingly-anxious patient.

“I managed to lean forward, and pulled her up to the ledge where we were.

A few minutes later, Fionnuala came back with news that she had contacted the Coast Guard – and that the helicopter was on the way.

Broken ankle

Seamus checked the young woman out – and was amazed to find that apart from a broken ankle, she was shaken but otherwise okay.

Within a few minutes, the Coast Guard arrived. The woman was airlifted to Galway, and a still “awfully shocked” Seamus and Fionnuala cycled to the nearest pub.

And what of the young woman?

Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that she’s recovering well. She celebrated her 21st birthday last Saturday – and has put her rescuer forward for an Irish Water Safety ‘Seiko Just In Time Award’ award.

Seamus, however, is adamant it was a group effort.

“Brian O’Donnell – the guard on the island, who arrived on the scene – was great. Philip Wrenn – the winchman on the Coast Guard helicopter – did a fantastic job.

“And Fionnuala - Fionnuala ran 20 minutes to find a landline, to make sure we got help.

I wasn’t looking for any recognition at all.

seam1 Seamus, earlier in the day. Source: Fionnuala Quigley

The Irish Water Safety Awards will take place in November at Dublin Castle.

Roger Sweeney of IWS said it was “wonderful news” that the girl had survived the incident – and had put Seamus forward for the award.

“The video shows just how quickly our powerful aquatic environments can change -especially in coastal areas subject to Atlantic swells.

It is terribly important to stay away from the edge – and to make sure that children receive constant uninterrupted supervision near water.

Read: More than 40 people drown every hour, with young children most at risk

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

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