independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Garda twice braves icy waters to save lives

HE can barely swim, but in the space of three weeks Garda Mark Irwin twice braved dangerous waters to save lives.

On Sunday morning Garda Irwin and colleague Garda John Boyle rescued a man from icy waters at Westport Quay in Co Mayo.

Just three weeks earlier, Westport-based Garda Irwin and Reserve Garda Stephen Corrigan waded chest high into Lough Coggeen on the Leenane Road outside Westport to rescue another man.

Martin McCaffrey (47) from Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh was in danger of drowning after his car crashed and overturned into the lake.

Both gardai managed to get their hands into the car and keep Mr McCaffrey's head above water until the fire brigade arrived to free him.

He later appeared before Westport District Court charged with dangerous driving.

"You saved his life, basically," Judge Mary Devins told the gardai.

Last Sunday Garda Irwin (23) from Ballymote, Co Sligo, and Garda Boyle (35) from Claremorris, Co Mayo, were on patrol at Westport Quay when, Garda Irwin saw a man in a frenzied state at the darkened pier.

His friend's car had crashed into the unlit pier and was hanging over the edge. The man had managed to get out of the vehicle but his friend, the driver, had fallen into the icy water. It was high tide, up to 20 feet deep.

When efforts to rescue him with a life buoy failed, both gardai went down to the water and managed to haul him out.

Garda Irwin, who admits that he can barely swim, said: ''It is a split second decision and if it ever happened again, you'd do the same thing.

"You've no time to think, you often disregard your own personal safety to save someone."

An investigation into the incident is under way.

Irish Independent

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