'It was like finding a needle in a haystack' - Hero who helped rescue kayaker from the water after over four hours
A hero who helped rescue a kayaker who had been stranded in the water for over four hours admits it was like "finding a needle in a haystack."
The unnamed man (45) was kayaking on Lough Conn, Co Mayo with his son and a friend on Thursday night when he capsized and they got separated.
The alarm was raised when the group didn't return for dinner, the boys managed to make it to shore and told a local fisherman that a man was in the water.
Irish Coast Guard said a member of the public put in a call for a missing kayaker on Lough Conn at 8.30pm, Killala Coast Guard and Rescue 11 were dispatched within minutes.
Michael Tiernan Jr (26) was called by his father to help search for the man and it was his boat that found him.
He told Independent.ie: "It was my boat that found him and I was holding him up with the side of the boat. Then when search and rescue arrived we lifted him onto that boat,” he said
“I’m a boatman on the lake. I had been on the lake earlier and seen the kayakers and then I got talking to club members who had seen them later on. I went straight back out.
“I put two and two together and knowing the wind had changed I figured out where they were. It was still like finding a needle in a haystack.”
Michael explained they spotted a reflective stripe on the man's jacket.
He said: "The lake is over 9 miles long. He could’ve been anywhere. It was a stroke of luck then really when we saw a silver strip reflecting on his life jacket. When we got closer we also heard him shouting.
“I just want to point out how important it was that he was wearing a life jacket. If he wasn’t wearing that he’d be gone.”
the man was recovered from the water and brought to hospital by ambulance.
Gerry Murphy, who owns a local boat hire business, said he was contacted when the trio hadn’t returned in time for dinner.
“I know the lake inside-out and that’s why I was contacted. I was on the lake in five minutes. The lake is quite big and we were looking in total darkness,” he said.
He said the man works in London and was visiting friends in the area.
“He had capsized for some reason and the wind had picked up and he had drifted out into the lake,” he said.
“The moment that word got out there were lights and jeeps and people all along the shore of the lake. The whole community got involved,” Gerry added.
He said when the man was returned to shore at around 10.30 last night there were 30 or 40 people on shore.
“He did the right thing. He wore a life jacket and didn’t panic, he stayed calm.”
The Coast Guard Helicopter shone a light down on the rescue efforts and a paramedic came down to assist on the shore.
“It was a good result. Everyone did their best, the search went on for an hour or so and we all exchanged numbers and stayed in contact.
“The Coast Guard, rescue services and gardaí don’t get enough praise for what they do,” he said.
Michael Jr’s father, Michael Sr, is involved in the local fishing club and put out a call to action to the members.
“I’m involved in the local angling club and Gerry got in touch with me when he was worried they didn’t get back in time. He knew I had access to local bodies to get out on the water,” he said.
“I contacted the local gardaí and started getting in touch with members of the club including my son and Paul Walsh,” Michael Sr added.
“They all went searching. The two kids involved were found on the shore and it was established he was still in the water. The situation escalated then and the Coast Guard was called,” he said.
“When you hear of a guy in the water like that you have to act quickly,” Michael Sr added.
Members of the club are preparing for the Foxford RiverFest between 18-20 August which will feature the Coast Guard and have a focus on water safety
“Club members and members of Foxford and District Search and Rescue were out searching on boats in the dark. My son and Paul had lights and they spotted a reflective strip on his life jacket,”
“If he wasn’t wearing that jacket he was dead. It definitely saved him. He was in the water for four hours and he was in pretty poor condition. He was lucky it wasn’t later in the year when the water was colder,” he said.