Saturday 24 March 2018

Hero teenager saves two drowning children

Billy hailed a hero after risking his own life

Tom Kennedy and Bill Cronin who saved the lives of two young children in Castlegregory.
Tom Kennedy and Bill Cronin who saved the lives of two young children in Castlegregory.
Billy Cronin, right, and Tom Kennedy, who saved the lives of two young children at The Maharees

Donal Nolan

A brave teenager risked his own life to save two siblings from drowning when they were swept out to sea.

Billy Cronin (14) was hailed as a hero after going to the rescue of a brother-and-sister in Brandon Bay, Co Kerry.

The trainee lifeguard was the only person anywhere close to the struggling children and got the 14-year-old boy on his body board and kept his sister (12) afloat.

“I genuinely thought they were goners and the girl in particular had only seconds to spare,” said Billy.

The dramatic rescue took place on Wednesday last week when the teen was bodyboarding at ‘The Dumps’ strand at the Maharees and spotted the children in trouble in heavy surf.

Kitesurfer Tom Kennedy also joined in the rescue and the siblings were safely brought back to shore to be reunited with their father, who had watched frantically from the shore.

“I keep thinking how I wouldn’t have been there for them if I had gone home on the day or decided to go out body-boarding in a different direction,” said Billy, who was on holiday from Glanmire in Cork.

The siblings had been swept out up to 300 metres from the shallows in seconds by a rip tide as their father paced the beach in a panic.

Billy spotted the pair in trouble as he was trying to catch some of the day’s waves in a heavy swell.

“I saw they were in trouble and I remember thinking I would regret this big-time if I turned away as I paddled over,” added Billy, who has completed his first level of lifeguard training.

“I only realised how serious it was when I got within 15 metres of them.

“The girl was going under and would have been gone in about 30 seconds. My big worry on reaching them was that the boy would pull me under as he was trashing around, but it was more important to try to rescue them.

“I was worried for my own safety alright, but I was full of air and just shouted at him not to touch me and that I was going to give him by body-board.”

Billy got the boy safely onto the board while holding his sister’s head out of the water, telling them to relax as he thought about how to get them shore.

At this point kitesurfer Tom Kennedy was racing to the scene after spotting a man pacing frantically on shore.

“I was coming in on the kite when I noticed a man running along the beach and looking extremely agitated,” said Mr Kennedy,  also holidaying from Clonmel in Tipperary.

“ I looked out then and saw the two of them up to 300 metres away, well out of their depth. So I dropped the kite and grabbed a body-board off a kid and said ‘I’ll explain later’.”

Mr Kennedy helped get the girl onto the second body-board and they made their way back to the shore.

“I was going to go out and around the rip tide with them, but decided to take them in slowly and just let them get their breath, taking everything nice and relaxed,” Billy added.

“It was pure adrenaline I was on though and it felt like a scene from the TV show Bondi Rescue.”

The siblings were reunited with their father minutes later, but as yet no one has been able to establish who they are - the family left the beach immediately afterwards.


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