A FISHERMAN'S prayers were answered when he was plucked from the sea in a dramatic rescue on Tuesday.
Tommy O'Donnell (65), from Creevy, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, was reciting the Hail Mary as he floated in his lifejacket after being thrown overboard half a mile off Creevy pier in Donegal Bay when he was spotted by local men Pat Ward and his grandson Dean.
They were on their final trip of the year to attend to lobster pots. A dense fog, which had been down on the bay earlier on Tuesday morning, had lifted.
"It was pure chance we were there," said Dean, from Cashellacken, Ballyshannon. "The morning turned out good so my grandfather decided to take the boat out. We won't be out again, not until the new year."
The pair approached the abandoned speedboat and floating debris.
"At first I thought there were two or even three bodies in the sea. We didn't know what was going on," Dean added.
As they neared the boat, they spotted Mr O'Donnell.
"We thought he was unconscious but then I heard him saying the Hail Mary," he said. "When we pulled him into the boat it was like lifting 10 men.
"He said 'I have never been as happy in my life to see you'."
The 65-year old was thrown overboard after the steering wheel on his boat broke. He had been in the water for 45 minutes before his rescue.
He was attended to by Bundoran RNLI crew and taken to Sligo General Hospital but was discharged later that day.
Colm Hamrogue, spokesman for Bundoran RNLI, said that a life jacket and having an emergency kill switch fitted to the engine had helped save Mr O'Donnell's life. "I would also like to praise the local fishermen for their vital role," he said.
The rescued fisherman was recovering at home yesterday.
"He is in grand form," a family member said.