AN elderly farmer, who was discovered in a drain using infra-red equipment, is expected home from hospital in time for his birthday tomorrow.
Gerard Clune, who will be 78 tomorrow, was airlifted to hospital late on Wednesday night following a massive search which was launched after he had been reported missing.
Mr Clune disappeared after feeding livestock on his farm at Ballymacloon near the village of Quin about 13 kilometres from Ennis.
The man had been with a neighbour who left him for a short time at around 3pm.
But when the neighbour returned to the field he was unable to locate Mr Clune. He went to the family home to see if Mr Clune had returned and when he saw that he hadn't, the alarm was raised by a family member.
Gardai from Quin and Ennis, assisted by members of Clare Civil Defence and locals, began a search for the missing farmer.
The Killaloe Unit of the Irish Coast Guard was also dispatched but, after a prolonged search of several fields, the local area rescuers were unable to locate the missing man.
Amid growing concern for his safety, the Shannon-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter (Rescue 1-1-5) was called in.
The crew of the chopper found him within half an hour using its hi-tech forward looking infra-red (FLIR) equipment, which can be used to see in total darkness.
Mr Clune was found lying in a drain from which he was apparently unable to free himself. Amid fears he had broken his leg, he was airlifted from the scene and flown to the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick.
Mr Clune's leg was not broken and he is now expected to be well enough to return home today or tomorrow, in time to celebrate his birthday with his wife Ann.