Tuesday 22 May 2018

'There was commotion in the dark' - Off-duty ambulance volunteer jumped into river on way home from concert to save man's life

St John Ambulance volunteer Paul Downe (Picture: Arthur Carron)
St John Ambulance volunteer Paul Downe (Picture: Arthur Carron)
Claire Murphy

Claire Murphy

An off-duty St John Ambulance volunteer on his way home from a concert jumped into the River Liffey to save a man's life..

Paul Downes (52) was walking home from the Neil Young concert at the 3Arena on Wednesday night when he noticed a "commotion" at a jetty near to the arena.

Paul - who has been a volunteer with St John Ambulance for 40 years - said that he noticed a man in difficulty and a group of people on the bank trying to help him in the heavy fog.


"Just about 300 yards from the arena there is a walkway down on to a jetty and there was a bit of commotion," he said.

"My wife Judith said to me 'What's that out on the water?' I looked out into the dark, it was a very foggy. "There was a group of people trying to throw out a life buoy, but the rope wasn't attached and the patient wasn't in a position to grab on to it."

St Johns Ambulance volunteer Paul Downes, South Circular Road, who saved a man drowning in the Liffey
St Johns Ambulance volunteer Paul Downes, South Circular Road, who saved a man drowning in the Liffey

Paul - a trained lifesaver, marathon runner and strong swimmer - took quick action.

"I assessed the situation and I thought it was likely he would go under. I knew he didn't have enough time before the rescue boat arrived.

"So I stripped down. He was about 15 to 20 feet out and he was semi-conscious. I was able to catch him and at that point I yelled up to the bystanders to help. A couple of lads helped me and the ambulance service was on the scene in a few minutes."

The man was brought to the Mater Hospital and is recovering from his ordeal.

Paul - from South Circular Road, Dublin - emphasised that nobody should attempt a rescue unless appropriately trained.

"The key message is, don't go into the water unless you have to. This was a measured, thought-out approach and response based on training.


"I have the knowledge and training. You should not go into water unless you know exactly what you're doing. Had the guy been out 30 or 40 feet, I wouldn't have gone in."

John Hughes, Commissioner of St John Ambulance Ireland, commended the careful actions of his colleague.

"It is of vital importance to always contact the emergency services immediately in such circumstances," he said.

"Of course, we should all consider undertaking such training - you never know when your intervention in an emergency could make all the difference."

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