Hero garda strikes again
A SLIGO Garda has been hailed a hero after twice putting his life at risk to go into freezing waters to save two men's lives.
Three weeks ago, Garda Mark Irwin (23) first saved a man from drowning in a Mayo lake.
Two weeks later, he rescued another man at Westport quays.
The hero garda pulled the driver of the car to safety from the quays.
Amazingly, Garda Irwin, a native of Ballymote, can't even swim.
He insists he is merely doing his job and is not looking for compliments.
He said: "We get paid to do this and it's all a day's work really.
"I said after the first rescue that if it were to happen again I'd do the same once more.
"But I didn't think I would come across another similar situation so quickly.
"You could go through years of service and meet such an incident maybe just once."
In the latest rescue, Garda Irwin, who has been stationed in Westport for the past three years, was on duty with Garda John Boyle when they decided to take a spin around the quays area of the town around 4 am on Sunday, November 18th.
At an area known as The Point, the Gardai spotted a car that was literally dangling on the pier.
"There was a man in a distressed state standing on the quays and it soon became clear there was another man in the water in great danger," said Garda Irwin.
The passenger had got out of the car on to the ground but when the driver opened his door he plunged 15 feet into freezing water and was clinging for life to a ledge.
It was high tide and the man was in about 25 feet of water.
The Gardai threw him a lifebuoy but the man didn't want to let go of the ledge.
"So we decided to go down to him and we made our way down a fixed ladder nearby.
"There was no lighting and the water came up over our knees but we able to get to the man and pull him over to us and up the ladder to safety," said Garda Irwin.
The Garda is in no doubt the man would not have survived if he hadn't happened on the scene.
"It was just pure luck that we decided to take a spin around that area.
"The driver would not have made it if we didn't get to him.
"He was taken to hospital and kept in for monitoring but is fine now and he said he owes his life to us.
"You've no time to think, you often disregard your own safety to save someone. "Either of us could have gone into the water. "It is the nature of the job, sometimes you need to go that extra step," said Garda Irwin.
Just a couple of weeks earlier, Garda Irwin and Reserve Garda Stephen Corrigan, a student at IT Sligo, waded "chest high" into Lough Coggeen on the Leenane Road in Westport to rescue a driver from County Fermanagh whose car had left the road.
The two Gardai managed to keep the driver's head above the rising water in a 12 inch air pocket until the fire brigade arrived to free him.