THERE WERE dramatic scenes at Courtown Woods last week after a three-year-old child got into difficulty at the river at the Ballinatray bridge.
The child’s guardian entered the water in pursuit of the child and both ended up being unable to get back out due to the slippery river bank.
It all happened between 12.30 p.m. and 1 p.m. on Wednesday, November 17, with Courtown RNLI and the Coast guard called to the scene.
Two passers-by managed to rescue the woman and young boy from the water, while a local woman called the emergency services.
Speaking to this newspaper, the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was walking in the woods when she heard someone shout “help”.
“I had crossed over the bridge as I was coming from the other side and I heard shouting for a while and I took no notice as I thought it was kids messing. When I heard the mother shout, I ran then and I saw she was in the water, but she was very calm and told me to ring the emergency services.
“When I got off the phone, two very nice men arrived and we found out that she couldn’t swim. The men coaxed her along and took the baby off her. I had tried to reach the baby but I actually slipped in myself and had to be quickly dragged out. I only got my ankles wet but I noticed that the water was very cold. Once we got the baby out, we wrapped him up in my jacket and we kept moving to the car park.
“One of the men put the woman in his car and had the heater on but she was in the wet clothes still, sitting for what felt like a long time. Her hands and feet were snow white as was the baby, but thankfully both of them were alright. We were lucky to get the child out but the woman told me she was in the water about ten minutes and she was very thankful. I want her to know that she was great about it all and very brave”.
Sam Kennedy of Courtown is grateful that everything turned out so well and praised the local men who helped the woman.
“We got paged just before 1 p.m. and were told that the little fellow slipped in and then the mother jumped in to get him and that they were at the river in the woods at the wooden bridge. We knew we couldn’t get that far up the river but I said that we’d get our suits on and head out. From previous experience, we thought automatically that where they were was the spike bridge but the crew split up so some of us went to the bridge by the swimming pool and three others went down to the entrance at Ballinatray. It was happening at Ballinatray and one of our crew is a trained paramedic so he treated the woman and the child giving first aid.
“In the meantime the helicopter crew and coast guard had also been tasked so they arrived on the scene to help as well. The mother and son were handed over to them then as the coast guard had brought the paramedics down from the helicopter, which was stationed at Riverchapel Community Complex.
“The woman was suffering from mild hyperthermia and one of our crew gave the woman one of our woollen suits to warm up and sat her into the car”.
Sam said that it was down to luck that the river wasn’t flowing very fast that day.
“There wasn’t a big flow on the day but there’d be pockets in that river that would be deep enough. At this time of the year the water would run cold and you wouldn’t have to be in for too long before you’d start feeing the effects of hyperthermia.
"The banks would be slippery enough and the child must have been close to that. It was great that everything turned out the way it did and fair play to the two gentlemen that were there to get them out of the water and rescue them.
"These things can happen but we’d always say that it’s key to be clear about where you are when it comes to emergency situations like this”.
David Swinburne of the Coast Guard said that although people wouldn’t usually swim in the river, he would suspect that the depth would be about three or four foot.
“The banks there can be disguised by fallen leaves and slipping in is easily done but the trouble is that as it’s wet you can’t get yourself back out. As it can be hidden, our advice would be to be careful and to stay back from the edge.
“We secured the scene and got the helicopter landed so we could transport the paramedics to the scene while awaiting the ambulance. Our pagers were activated at 12.40 p.m. and there would have been a lot of walkers nearby at the time.
“This situation could have been a lot worse so we’d say that if someone is in difficulty call 999 and ask for the Coastguard and give your location”.
Gardai said that the woman and child were sent to Wexford General Hospital for observations but should make a full recovery.
Cllr Ger Carty was stationed at Riverchapel Community Complex and added that it was determined by the team that it wasn’t an appropriate action to transport the woman and child by air-lifting them as both were shaken up and hyper-thermic but could be treated.