Two men hailed as heroes after preventing disabled driver in car sliding into river
Just one month after Buncrana pier tragedy
Two quick-thinking men have been hailed as heroes after they prevented a disabled driver in his car from sliding into the River Foyle in a terrifying incident that had echoes of the Buncrana pier tragedy.
Just one month after five members of the McGrotty and Daniels families lost their lives in Co Donegal, a driver found himself in similar danger in Londonderry.
Transport NI's Darren McGrellis and Raymond Shields were on their lunch break at Culmore Point when they heard distressed shouts for help coming from a slipway into the Foyle.
With no thought for their own safety, the two colleagues ran to the slipway and were horrified to see the driver stuck inside his car, which was parked on a bed of slippery seaweed near the edge of the slipway.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr McGrellis said all he could think of at the time was last month's Buncrana drowning tragedy, in which five members of the same Derry family died when their car slid into Lough Swilly.
"We heard someone shouting in panic for help and so we ran straight away to the slipway," he said. "All either of us could think about when we saw the man inside his car so close to the edge was what had happened in Buncrana.
"We ran to him straight away and could hear him talking to the emergency services - but he was in hysterics so I took the phone off him while Raymond grabbed the car.
"We were both trying to hold on to the car and I was talking to the person on the phone who kept saying, 'You need to get him out of the car straight away.'
"The man was disabled - there were crutches in the car and he was wearing bedroom slippers, plus he was very distressed but we managed to get him out and up the slipway to safety. We got him calmed down and gave him a drink of water.
"But then Raymond noticed the car was sliding towards the river so we went back down and managed to jam bricks behind the wheels which stopped it moving any further.
"The Fire Service came then and between us we got a rope attached to the front of the man's car and pulled the car up the slipway.
"The wee man kept saying how embarrassed he was but he was so grateful to be safe too.
"He said to us, 'If I knew how to contact the Queen, I would get you two an MBE.'
"He was talking away about what had happened in Buncrana and I think he must have thought how close he came to the same thing happening to him - which it very easily could have because there wasn't anyone else around, only me and Raymond.
"It's doesn't bear thinking about how things could have ended if we hadn't been on our lunch break. It really took it out of us as well, we were mentally exhausted but thank God it worked out well this time."
The efforts of the two brave men were praised by the Fire Service Derry district commander Kevin Lynch. "We were called to attend an incident involving a car stuck on a slipway at Culmore Point," he said.
"I would like to commend the quick thinking and actions of the personnel from Transport NI. I would also urge members of the public not to put themselves at risk by driving onto slipways and to pay heed to safety signs."