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Friday 22 June 2018

'I knew he didn't have much time' - Hero who saved man from drowning receives prestigious award

Hero Jim Jacob
Hero Jim Jacob

Ryan O'Rourke

A hero who saved the life of another man after jumping into the River Slaney in Wexford has been awarded today for his heroism at a special ceremony.

Jim Jacob (38), from Enniscorthy in Co Wexford, pulled a man to safety in July this year after he got into difficulty in the water.

The Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards took place today and Mr Jacob received the Unsung Hero Special Recognition Award.

The awards give credit to those who have made a significant contribution to Irish society.

On the afternoon of July 19, Mr Jacob stopped his car on the bridge crossing the river Slaney after seeing a group of people gathered around.

After finding out there was a man in distress in the water, Mr Jacob ran to the rescue.

“I could hear people asking ‘can anybody swim,’ and I said I can,” Mr Jacob said.

The man in trouble was in the deepest part of the river, and Mr Jacob could see he was struggling.

“I could just see his head going up and down under the water, I knew he didn’t have much time,” he said.

After he failed to rescue the man using a life ring safety device, Mr Jacob swam in and pulled the man to safety himself.

The 38-year-old told Independent.ie how the situation in the water unfolded.

“I got to within two foot of him and I kind of panicked myself, I thought it was grand getting to him but how do I get him out.

“I was the only one in the river and I said, if something goes wrong here, I’m a goner myself,” he said.

Mr Jacob caught the man by the hands and pulled him out of the water, and after seeing that he was still alive, he kicked as hard as could to bring the man back to the bank of the river.

“All that I could think at the start was get to him, get to him, get to him, he couldn’t keep going under the water.”

The Enniscorthy local described the reaction of the man he had just saved.

“When I pulled him out of the water, I could see the relief on his face.

“I have never seen a man look as happy, just the look in his eyes, that someone had got to him, because he wasn’t coming back up again,” he said.

After the dramatic incident, Mr Jacobs left the man in the hands of the ambulance crew and left the scene, not wanting to attract attention.

“I train young lads in hurling in Enniscorthy, so I went around gathering the young lads for a match and said nothing of it.

“It wasn’t until after the match I realised there was a commotion about it,” said the modest hero.

Although Mr Jacob’s is glad he helped the drowning man, he said that people shouldn’t be as quick to put their lives in danger.

“The panic gave me a second to think, I could do it a hundred times over and not get it right.

“Luckily enough for me, I made the right choices by pulling him out of the water and getting behind him,” he said.

The hurling coach is a strong swimmer but has no lifesaving experience. He was glad that the situation worked out and he had made the right choices.

“If something had gone wrong, or I couldn’t have got to him, I would have been eating myself up wondering if I could have done something different,” he said.

Speaking about the competition, Mr Jacob revealed that it has all come as a bit of a shock to him.

”I didn’t really know until Thursday, I don’t have a phone, I’m not the easiest man to get in contact with.

“The brother called up to the house and said there are people looking for you, you’re up for an award,” he laughed.

Describing his day so far, Mr Jacobs said: “It’s the first time being in this hotel, it’s proper swanky.”

“I wasn’t expecting this, it was something different and a nice day out,” he said.

The modest hero has not spoken to the man he rescued, and has no plans to.

“I was just happy he was ok and I didn’t want to delve in to his circumstances as to why he was in the river,” said Mr Jacob.

The Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards were established in 2011.

This year the awards will be hosted by RTE’s Mary Kennedy at a gala lunch on Monday September 11 in the Inter-Continental Hotel, Dublin.

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