Sunday 22 April 2018

'She just laid inside the boat and prayed': Horror as two children swept out to sea in inflatable dinghies

(Stock image)
(Stock image)
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

People were warned of the dangers of using inflatable craft by the sea after two dramatic rescues of children in Cork.

Tributes were paid to the RNLI crews in Ballycotton and Crosshaven after they rescued two children in separate incidents over the past 72 hours as small inflatable craft were swept out to sea.

In one incident, alert scuba diver Gerry Leddin immediately realised a family were in difficulty in Fountainstown.

"There were two adults, I presumed a mother and father, and a small child using a small inflatable craft. I think the Coastguard later described it as a supermarket-type dinghy," Gerry said.

Gerry watched as the vessel was launched - and, within seconds, had been swept out to sea by the combination of the ebbing tide and Force 6 winds.

He immediately raised the alarm and the Crosshaven RNLI boat was on the scene within minutes.

They successfully rescued the couple and child, bringing them back to Fountainstown shocked by unharmed.

In a second rescue, Cork mother Karen McGrath contacted 96FM to offer her thanks to the Ballycotton RNLI crew for the successful rescue of her 12 year old daughter, Emily.

Emily and three friends were playing in an inflatable craft at Shanagarry with her parents, aunts and uncles.

The adults turned away and, in seconds, the wind and tide had started to sweep the boat out to sea.

Karen's husband and her brother, Kenneth, bravely dived in to the sea and got three of the four children out of the craft to safety.

But they were unable to reach Emily given the speed with which the dinghy was swept out to sea.

"I was very distraught - my child was being swept away. But there was a lovely lady called Orla Lynch on the shore and she immediately contacted the Ballycotton RNLI crew," Karen said.

The RNLI boat was launched immediately and raced to the scene. Quick-witted Emily had stayed safe and calm within the dinghy as her family had shouted at her to do.

The RNLI crew got her safely out of the dinghy and on board the lifeboat. She was reunited with her shocked family a few minutes later.

"We're just so grateful and wanted to say 'thank you'. We were in pieces," Karen said.

"We were very, very lucky with Emily. She was really distressed afterwards. She told us afterwards she just laid inside the boat and prayed to her (late) nan to keep her safe."

"We could so easily have lost our child. But the people were fantastic to us on the beach."

Irish Water Safety, the Irish Coastguard and the RNLI urged people to exercise maximum caution near rivers, the lakes and the sea.

They also urged people to exercise maximum caution when using inflatable craft near the sea or lakes.

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