Saturday 24 March 2018

Drowning witness speaks of 'traumatising' experience after her own father lost his life in similar incident

University Hospital Cork
University Hospital Cork

Meadhbh McGrath and Ralph Riegel

A woman who witnessed a drowning tragedy last night has said it was a “traumatising” experience after her own father lost his life in a similar incident six years ago.

The man, who was middle-aged, was spotted floating face down in water near the Regional Park in Ballincollig, Co Cork, shortly before 6pm on Wednesday evening.

Melanie O’Driscoll had been having a picnic with her husband and four-year-old daughter when they noticed the man in the water.

“We saw all the commotion down on the weir and people jumping. I saw the man jump off, we all did, and he got into difficulty. He was trying to keep himself up, his hands were going backwards,” she told Cork’s 96FM's Opinion Line.

“There were people in the water trying to swim to him and my husband ran to the other side of the water on the lower end of the weir and I ran in the centre. I was screaming, ‘stay on your back, we’re getting to you!’”

Melanie’s husband, along with another man named Shane, ran to try to get to him but could not reach him because of a strong current.

“Eventually he did float down into my husband’s arms, and my husband, Shane and myself pulled him out of the water, dragged him over to the stones and then it just went chaotic from there,” she said.

“There were people coming from everywhere – there were two nurses and a healthcare worker and they performed amazingly with CPR.”

Within minutes, paramedics and gardaí arrived at the scene and the man was rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

He was admitted in a critical condition but, despite the best efforts of doctors to stabilise his condition, he died overnight.

“I am shaking, I haven’t slept a wink. Everybody did their best last night to help that man,” Melanie said.

“It was traumatising. I want to pass my condolences to the family, because we tried our best, we tried to get to him as quick as we could, but we just couldn’t.”

Melanie added that she had lost her own father in a drowning accident six years ago.

“He was out fishing in the same spot he went to every Wednesday all his life, and he just slipped and hit his head on the rocks and drowned. It was horrible to have to see that last night.

“It was heartbreaking to see it, after seeing what my own father suffered.”

The man who died last night is understood to be from the Ballincollig area, and Melanie said a group of his family and friends, including his 12-year-old daughter, had also been on the shore.

“I sat on the stones with his 12-year-old daughter trying to console her, and she was standing there when my husband and everybody was doing amazing work on her dad,” she said, recalling how the girl had cried: “that’s my dad, please help him”.

“They were absolutely heroic in their efforts last night for that man,” Maureen added.

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