A FISH farm worker has been hailed a hero after single-handedly saving two dolphins from dying on a beach.
Shea Coyle (22) is more used to dealing with salmon in his job in Fanad, Co Donegal. And his dad Michael says the dolphins jumped out of the water "as if to say thank you" after the rescue.
The proud dad revealed how a cursory glance from the window of his home overlooking Downings beach led to the rescue.
"I looked out the window and I saw something in the water and at first I thought it was two surf boards turned upside down, with the fins showing above the water," said Michael.
"I got my binoculars to try to see more clearly and it was obvious this wasn't a couple of surf boards. To be honest, I thought they looked like sharks."
Michael and son Shea went down to the beach to investigate and soon realised that the two dolphins had become embedded in the sand in shallow water on Downings beach, on the Rosguill peninsula.
"They were in the water just about but they were stuck in the sand and trying desperately to wriggle free," said Shea.
"I rolled up my trousers and got into the water and tried to get the first one shifted. After about 10 minutes I got one dolphin safely out into deeper water and he stayed there whilst I got to work on the other.
"I eventually got him – or her – out as well. And then they just took off."
The father and son then walked to a nearby pier to see off the dolphins.
Michael told the Irish Independent: "They were jumping through the water, but they hung around the pier for a while.
"It was as if they were saying 'thank you' before heading off out to sea. I've never seen anything like that before here in Downings."
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said there had been a number of "strange strandings" of dolphins in recent weeks, without any explanation.
Seven common dolphins were rescued on Tarmon beach near Blacksod, Co Mayo, a week ago. However, two of them later died.