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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 2 June, 2020

Off-duty soldier rescues 1-year-old nephew after he fell into the freezing River Barrow

Michael Lyons’ quick reaction could have made the difference between life and death for 18-month-old Max.

hdr Michael Lyons rescued Max, who'd fallen into the River Barrow in Carlow Town Source: Michael Lyons

A FAMILY IN Carlow managed to narrowly avert tragedy last week after a young toddler fell into the freezing water of the River Barrow.

Michael Lyons was on a family outing with his two children, his father and their 18-month-old nephew Max last week when the incident occurred.

The off-duty soldier’s 18-month-old nephew was feeding the ducks at Carlow rowing club when he fell over the low railing into the freezing water of the River Barrow at around 12.15pm on Sunday.

Michael immediately jumped in to save Max, and managed to get him out before the boy suffered any serious injuries.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” Michael Lyons told

Instinct took over, and all I could think was that I had to make this right.

Max’s mother, and Michael’s sister Aisling, had been in Galway for the weekend, and he had proposed taking Max out with his two children – aged two and five – for the day.

His father, also called Michael, came along too, while Max’s father said he’d meet them later.

They decided to feed the ducks on the Quay by Carlow rowing club.

rowing club Taken just beside the rowing club near the site that Max fell into the river. Source: Google Street View

“It all happened so quickly,” Michael said. “Max was feeding ducks and next thing he’d tripped over the railings and fell about 8 foot into the freezing water.”

Michael shared a glance with his father, before jumping in himself.

This picture will live with me for the rest of my life. As I was jumping in, I could see him under the water with his eyes open. I just had to get him. He was definitely coming back with me.

Although he is a soldier, Michael said it wasn’t a matter of his training kicking in, he just did what he felt he had to.

“It had nothing to do with being a soldier,” he said. “Family came into it first, before work did.

All I could think of his father saying goodbye to him that morning, and the last picture we took of all the lads together just a few minutes before.

He managed to get a hold of Max and raise him above the water. However, there was still a major problem as he had to lift him to such a height above the water so his father could grab a hold of the boy.

By the time I had him up, it was another 3 feet I needed to lift him. I had my clothes on too, so by the time he was up, I was starting to go down.

“I had to get underneath him and swim with one hand, and the water was so cold,” Michael said.

It was then that Michael’s eldest son started to call for help, just as he managed to get Max out of the water.

A man from a nearby apartment block came down to them with towels and blankets, while his wife heated their apartment upstairs so they could warm Max up.

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“By the time Max’s father arrived, all I could say was, ‘Sorry’,” Michael said.

Max was taken to a doctor later that day and got the all-clear, and Michael paid the family a visit later that evening.

shutterstock_38553259 River Barrow in Carlow Town Source: Shutterstock/walshphotos

His sister had arrived back, and everyone was grateful and relieved that Michael had acted so quickly to rescue his nephew.

Michael, however, says he is still feeling the shock from the event.

“The thought of what could have happened if Max had panicked is horrible,” he explained. “He could have easily swallowed a load of water but did not. It could have different. One of mine could have fallen in.

If anything had happened to any of them, I couldn’t live with myself. I’d be forever blaming myself.

Luckily, both he and Max have made a full recovery from the incident.

Michael’s father told that he was immensly proud of his son for taking such swift action.

He said: “He has a a big heart and without hesitation he jumped over the railing fully clothed.

For me, it is like a film on a loop it just keeps playing in my head but we are all good now. Max is back to his usual self and we have a happy ending, thank god.

Read: Hero who saved the life of a four-month-old baby honoured at special event

Read: Taxi driver rescues family trapped inside a burning house at 4.30am

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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