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Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 28 October 2020

"The water rushes in awful fast - the kids wouldn't have been able to stand"

A Kerry fisherman who saved four children from a near-drowning incident during the July heatwave is among the recipients of this year’s national awards for lifesavers.

The sandbanks at 'Poulgorm' in Barrow are notorious in the area
The sandbanks at 'Poulgorm' in Barrow are notorious in the area
Image: Google Streetview

“I WOULDN’T NORMALLY have even gone to that beach. I’ve always had a bad feeling about it.”

Tony Stack may have ended up preventing four tragedies as a result of his decision to head to the beach at Barrow, near his Kerry home, one Sunday during this summer’s heatwave.

His children — Hannah, Edward and Charlotte — eager to make the most of the sunshine, wanted to make a beeline for the nearest beach possible. Tony bowed to pester power and gave in.

It was just as well too. Luckily for four other children at the beach with their families, Tony is a local fisherman and RNLI volunteer. His extensive local knowledge meant he instantly knew there was something wrong when he spotted the four kids playing on a large sandbank not far from the shoreline.

“We were just paddling away when I spotted them,” he told TheJournal.ie.

“They were out on a sandbank. What happens is that in the sunshine people are attracted to it because there are big pools of hot water that are like warm baths.

Tony knew the kids playing in the area were in danger because the tide was beginning to rise and “when the tide comes in, it comes in quickly”.

“I was getting worried. I sent my daughter up the beach to look for their parents.

“Then I said ‘ I just better do something quick’. Another five minutes and if they tried to cross the water they wouldn’t thave been able to stand.”

Tony ran and swam the distance to the stranded children, grabbing the eldest girl first and helping her to safety.

“I got two of them the second trip. The youngest fellow, I shouted to him to stay where he was and that I’d be back. Fair play to him, he was the least worried of the lot of us.

“I was up to my armpits, so they would have been in real trouble.”

Tony said there was “no way” even the oldest child (who was 14) would have been able to stay upright in the water.

He was “pretty shaken up” by the time he transported the children (the youngest of whom was just four) to safety.

The kids were reunited with their parents, though Tony says in the aftermath he was “more worried about my own family” as his children had been “pretty distressed” by the ordeal.


In spite of all that drama, Tony said he hasn’t “thought much about” what had happened in the intervening months.

That was, at least, until he got home yesterday morning to find a letter telling him was to receive a Seiko ‘Just in Time’ award from Irish Water Safety for his efforts.

He’ll be honoured alongside 37 other ‘local heroes’ at a ceremony in Dublin Castle next Tuesday afternoon.

Tony’s fellow ‘Just in Time’ award recipients include an on-duty Luas driver who rescued a woman from the Grand Canal and a Donegal surf instructor who saved a woman and her two sons.

He said he was “completely chuffed” to hear he’d be receiving the award, and that he’d be bringing his kids along for the day out in Dublin.

Read: Warm summer saw RNLI lifeboats launched 571 times

Read: Man confirmed dead after rescue operation in Avoca River

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