Saturday 3 December 2016

‘I fell off the Cliffs of Moher and lived to tell the tale’- Irish man on his miracle survival after tumbling more than 40ft

Published 26/08/2016 | 12:33

Peter Fitzpatrick survived a fall from the Cliffs of Moher when he was 13, Inset: A clipping from The Irish Independent, September 1997
Peter Fitzpatrick survived a fall from the Cliffs of Moher when he was 13, Inset: A clipping from The Irish Independent, September 1997
Peter Fitzpatrick survived a fall from the Cliffs of Moher when he was 13

An Irish man who survived a treacherous fall off the Cliffs of Moher has opened up about his childhood nightmare and said it was a “miracle” that he survived the horror accident.

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Peter Fitzpatrick (32) was 13 when he tumbled more than 40ft down the Cliffs while on a walk with his brother and a school friend, and was the focus of a dramatic rescue operation which saved his life in 1997. The story was recently highlighted by photographer Peter Varga of Humans of Dublin.

Peter Fitzpatrick survived a fall from the Cliffs of Moher when he was 13
Peter Fitzpatrick survived a fall from the Cliffs of Moher when he was 13

“My brother and my school friend cycled down to the Cliffs one day after school and although I don’t remember, my brother says I slipped and just went over the cliff and fell about 48 feet straight onto the rocks,” he told Independent.ie.

Peter’s friend managed to stop two buses on the local road in Doolin, Co. Clare and a dramatic six hour rescue operation ensued during which Peter was fighting for his life.

“There was a lot of fog that evening, and I was so close to the cliff that it was difficult for the helicopter to locate my exact spot. I was unconscious through the whole thing, and my whole insides were erupting, my spleen had burst. The RNLI boat couldn’t get close enough to the cliff either. About 50 people came out of the pub in Doolin and through sheer manpower they helped to winch me and four others up the side on a stretcher. I was flown then by helicopter to hospital,” said Peter.

Peter sustained extremely serious injuries in the fall, which saw him break many of the bones on the left side of his body and caused internal bleeding but he said he would have died instantly if he had landed on his head.

A clipping from the Irish Independent on September 25, 1997, covering Peter's accident.
A clipping from the Irish Independent on September 25, 1997, covering Peter's accident.

“My mum finds it hard to talk about but we were just speaking about it the other day and she said when I was finally brought up, I didn’t look at all like myself, my head was the size of a basketball and my two eyes were blackened,” he said.

Peter says he is the only person to survive such a fall off the Cliffs and credited the Doolin Rescue Centre, and the RNLI, who saved his life that night.

“At the time when I fell, the centre was a 20ft by 20ft shed but now it’s the best rescue centre in Ireland.

“I was so young when it happened, but it was really an eye-opener. It’s only as I’ve gotten older, I realised just how lucky I was. I was well known in Doolin, that’s for sure. I was extremely lucky to fall the way I did and not on my head, it was a miracle that I didn’t have any brain injuries,” he said.

Peter now works as a plasterer and contractor in Dublin, and said he realised how lucky he was to be left with few long-term injuries following the fall.

“I had to learn to walk again, but I’ve had a normal enough life apart from a few small problems. I’m 100pc now.

Peter tumbled 48ft off the Cliffs of Moher and survived
Peter tumbled 48ft off the Cliffs of Moher and survived

“My family would be quite religious and my mam said she was on top of the cliff saying prayers during the rescue so that might have had something to do with it,” he said.

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