Boy hailed hero after keeping unconscious girl's head above water during treacherous rescue
A teenager is fighting for her life after a group of four Dublin Scouts were swept into the sea while walking on rocks near Wexford's Hook Head.
Weather conditions from record-breaking Storm Desmond are being blamed for a strong sea surge that swept the four - a woman in her 20s and three teens - off the rocks into the sea shortly after 2pm.
The Waterford-based Irish Coastguard helicopter was immediately dispatched together with two local RNLI units.
Locals said the rescue helicopter was at the scene within 10 minutes.
The woman and one teen managed to scramble back to safety from the rocks. They were unhurt except for being shocked and having sustained minor cuts and bruises.
However, a boy (15) and a girl (14) had to be rescued from the sea.
The boy is being hailed as a hero for helping to keep the girl's head above water after she was apparently knocked unconscious after being swept off the rocks. Both were airlifted to Waterford University Hospital at Ardkeen.
There was also praise for the Irish Coastguard helicopter winchman's efforts to lift both to safety at the same time. He was concerned about leaving one teenager behind while he rescued the other and so decided to rescue them both together. Weather conditions made winching them extremely difficult.
The girl, a Junior Cert student, was last night in a critical condition and was expected to be airlifted to Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin.
The teenage boy is in a stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery.
Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds spoke to RTE Radio 1 this morning praising the prompt response time of the rescue team but could give no further information as to the condition of the teenagers.
A spokesperson for Scouting Ireland confirmed the group are members of the 55th Dublin South Circular Road Scout Group and were on a "hostelling" trip.
Scouting Ireland last night said its "critical incident stress management team are working with all involved" and thanked the rescue services for their "prompt response".
"Our thoughts are with those in hospital," it added.
The Wexford rescue was one of a series of incidents the emergency services responded to as they battled floods in Storm Desmond.
In Ballytivnan, Sligo, 13 nursing home residents had to be evacuated.
Initial data from Met Éireann weather stations released to the Irish Independent last night showed that 110mm of rain fell in many western areas during the weekend storm.
The rainfall was worst in Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Clare, said Met Éireann. "The country took a real hammering," said a Met Éireann spokesman, "it was the sort of event seen once every 50 years."
Around 110mm of rain fell in Claremorris, Co Mayo, with similar falls in many other areas.
Bandon in Co Cork, Lifford in Co Donegal and Crossmolina in Co Mayo were amongst the worst-hit towns.
Army, fire and council personnel worked through the weekend to help in the flooding clear-up.
Large parts of Donegal were cut off as Lifford bridge was closed and the border crossing at Aughnacloy was flooded, making access to the A5 impossible.
In Cork, Bandon was flooded after both the Rivers Bandon and Bridewell broke their banks shortly after 10pm on Saturday evening. The main access road from Cork to Bandon also had to be closed as Defence Forces personnel were ordered to help struggling emergency services.
Flooding also resulted in roads in Skibbereen, Dunmanway and Ballylickey being swamped.
East Clare bore the brunt of the worst flooding with thousands of acres of farmland now under water in the Shannon basin. In Limerick, the Hyde Road flooded, while there was also flooding in Abbeyfeale. Forecasters say more rain is on the way this evening, which will add to the problems in already flooded areas.
Scouting Ireland has said that it is providing support to the 14 venture scouts and their leaders who were on the visit to Hook Head.
"Two of our venture scouts remain in hospital and our thoughts are with them and their families at this time. This is a very serious accident and everyone in the scouting community is shocked by it," read the statement this afternoon.
"The young people concerned made courageous efforts to support their friends who were swept into the sea by a freak wave".