Stranded tourist makes 'moss blanket' to stay warm in forest
An elderly French tourist who was stranded overnight in an ancient woodland in horrific weather emerged unscathed after covering himself in moss.
The man, aged in his 70s, was no worse for wear when he was finally rescued at around 5am yesterday after a massive land, water and air search by close to 40 rescuers in the dense woodlands near Maam, Co Galway, in Connemara.
Volunteer rescuers from the Westport and Cleggan coast guards, the Sligo Coast Guard helicopter, the Galway Mountain Rescue and local gardai were involved in the operation.
They battled galeforce winds, swollen rivers, torrential rain and inaccessible terrain in the pitch dark for more than seven hours before they reached the man on foot where he was found huddled under a makeshift blanket of moss he had made to keep himself warm.
Michael Murray, chief of operations for the Cleggan Coast Guard, said although the tourist had no provisions other than a bottle of water, he was "in surprisingly good shape", and didn't need medical treatment following the ordeal.
The alarm was raised at nightfall on Thursday when the Frenchman, a keen angler who rents a local holiday home every August, didn't return from a fishing expedition with three of his companions. Although he was eventually spotted at 11pm, rescuers couldn't reach him for hours because he was cut off by the raging Maam River which was swollen due to torrential rain.
"Everything went against us," added Brian Moran, chief of operations for the Westport Coast Guard.
"He was on one side of the river and we were on the other and the only way we could communicate was by shouting," he said, adding "his voice was getting very weak".
Rescuers then trekked three kilometres through dense woodland to cross the river before they found the man, who "looked better than the rescuers".