Friday 24 March 2017

Recovering toddlers' bodies was horrific, says Irishman who helped save 90 from sea

Marc McFadden
Marc McFadden
Adam Cullen

Adam Cullen

An Irishman has relived the "heartbreaking" moment he helped to remove the lifeless bodies of two refugee children from the sea.

Marc McFadden (39) fearlessly battled to save up to "90 refugees" from rough seas off the Libyan coast earlier this year.

Marc and his co-workers witnessed a 20ft "currach"-type boat being "ripped to pieces" as they worked on a construction site near the seafront in Khoms.

"It was terrifying to watch," he said.

"They were being crashed about in the waves 200 metres from the shore." The mechanical engineer and his colleagues rushed to their aid and managed to pull 35 people to safety despite not having a boat or any assistance from emergency services.

The Donegal man fought back the tears as he described the heart-wrenching moment he recovered the bodies of two little girls from the water shortly after 3pm on February 8.

"It was devastating," he said. "They were no more than two or three years of age. Nothing can prepare you for that. It was just horrific. We tried to revive them for as long as we could but it was hopeless. They were gone. All we could do was cover them with a blanket and try and save the others," he said at the time.

Marc pulled three more bodies from the water later in the afternoon, two women and a man who were all in their early 20s.

He revealed some people were able to swim to safety themselves. But he added it took about 15 minutes for others to wash close enough to the shore so they could reach them safely.

"It was absolute pandemonium, the swells were three metres high. There were people bleeding after being bashed up by the rocks," he added. "They were foaming at the mouth and had sand in their nostrils. You could see the absolute fear in their eyes."

Despite the risk of Ebola, Marc and his colleagues desperately delivered CPR and first aid to the young asylum seekers.

"We managed to bring five or six people back from the brink of death," he said.

Despite their best efforts, Marc said there were up to 40 bodies left out at sea. "We could still see bodies bobbing in the water at 7.30pm, about 100m out. But there was nothing we could do, the water was too rough," he said.

Irish Independent

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