Thursday 29 September 2016

Dramatic moment scouts rescue two paddlers after boat crashes in dangerous flood waters

Cathal McMahon

Published 02/10/2015 | 07:12

THIS is the moment a group of scouts swooped to rescue two paddlers stranded after their boat crashed in dangerous flood waters .

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The heart-stopping video shows a tandem kayak smash into a bridge during the annual Liffey descent in Co Kildare last Saturday.

The boat split in two sending its paddlers into the rushing waters.

But thankfully a volunteer rescue team, made up of Dublin scouts, abseiled from Leixlip bridge seconds later preventing a potential fatality.

The entire incident was caught on camera and the volunteers, some of whom are teenagers, have been praised for their brave actions.

Venture Scout leader with 160th Ardlea and 1st Dublin Ronan Fields can be seen in the clip abseiling to the river.

The volunteer quickly released British kayakers Sam Weller and Steven Bush who were caught between the bridge and their shattered boat.

Mr Fields explained that their training has prepared them for these life and death situations.

“Firstly It's all about getting to them as quickly as possible and keeping their heads above the water line.

"I know what needs to be done and so does the rest of the team. We practice at meetings so when we need to act we can do so as a smooth efficient team.

“Luckily, the two guys were unhurt and the only damage done was to their boat.”

Mr Fields was joined on the bridge by 1st Dublin leaders Conor Wilson, Matthew Wilson, Dylan Morley, Luke Murphy, and Stephen Murphy as well as venture scouts  Ben Hughes and Craig Fox from the 160th Ardlea group - based in North Dublin.

Mr Fields, who is a core member of the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation (ICRO), has been providing rescue support at Leixlip Bridge during the race for the last eight years.

He said: “It’s a tricky spot and we’re very aware of what can go wrong.

"We get ourselves properly set up and we’re always prepared to act quickly if somebody gets into trouble. Sometimes, people can get trapped under the water and we need to get to them as soon as possible.”

The paddlers shown in the video are from the Devizes canoe club in Wiltshire in the UK and after the event they thanked the rescuers for their swift action.

Sam Weller, who was at the rear of the boat, said: "I didn't really have anything going through my head at the time, it all happened so fast. I was a bit concerned when I couldn't free my legs."

He continued: "The rescue team were brilliant and did a great job on the day. A big thank you to the guys for their help.The Liffey was brilliant, an amazing event all round."

Mr Bush, who was at the front of the craft, described the moment of panic after they careered into the bridge.

"All I could hear was Sam shouting 'help help my legs are caught'. I managed to free myself, I made my way around to Sam at the same time as the rescue team reached us.

"The rescue team were outstanding I couldn't believe how quickly they abseiled down to us, we are very grateful to them."

Asked if he will kayak again after the smash, Mr Weller said: "This hasn't put me off paddling and I will be back to do the race next year."

Mr Bush echoed his teammate: "We felt the Liffey descent was a really well organised race, we loved every minute of it that we actually paddled."

He continued: "It hasn't put us off kayaking and we can't wait to come back next year and hopefully complete the race."

The Liffey Descent, now in its 56th year, attracts paddlers from many parts of the world and is a major event on the international calendar.

During the race the ESB releases 30 tonnes of water per second from the Poulaphouca Reservoir bringing the usually tranquil river up to flood level.

The 28km course combines long flat water sections, swift currents, 10 weirs and numerous rapids, a heavily wooded section and a long portage around Leixlip dam.

Canoeing Ireland, who run the event, have praised the the work of the volunteers online.

Writing on Facebook they said: “This is just one of the heroic acts by 1st Dublin (LHO) and 160th Ardlea venture Scouts who have been working with an Irish Cave Rescue Organisation team member providing rescue support at Leixlip Bridge every year for the last eight years.

“A big thanks and shout out to all 150 people who provide safety and rescue for the Liffey Descent participants every year, including river rescue crews, the divers and the Irish Red Cross, the Liffey Descent would not be possible without you.”

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