There was a stark reminder of the importance of the ringbuoys on Wexford Bridge over the weekend after they were used to save the life of a man aged in his 60s who entered the water from the bridge on Saturday morning.
The incident took place shortly before 10 a.m. and saw passing motorists rush to the aid of the man, tossing him down the ringbuoys, which ultimately saved his life and kept him afloat until the RNLI plucked him from the water.
Well-known for his work with Wexford Able Disabled Club, Tony Murphy was one of the motorists who stopped to help.
'I was on my way out across the bridge when I saw this man standing on the outside of the railings where they first buoy is there,' he explained. 'I immediately put on the brakes and stuck the hazard lights on, as did the car behind me. I was just getting out the door when he was gone, just like that.'
'The man in the car behind me made it to the ringbuoy before me and the man in the water was floating upstream, so he went to the other side of the bridge and tossed the ringbuoy down to him. Thankfully, the man was able to grab onto it and it kept him afloat. A young fella and a girl grabbed another one and we threw that down to him as well. I think in total we threw out three lifebuoys to him.'
What was frightening, Tony said, was how quickly the tide took the man away from them.
'The tide took him and he was heading off towards the rocks up by the boat club when they got him,' he said. 'It's lucky the tide was coming in and not going out.'
It was a haunting scene and not one that Tony had anticipated heading over the bridge of a fine Saturday morning.
'It's was frightening,' he said. 'To see that sight of a man standing on the outside of the railings and then just disappearing...it was scary, and I've seen a lot. He's one lucky man. Thank God he was able to throw his right arm over the ringbuoy and stay afloat.'
In total, the entire incident lasted about 15 minutes and the RNLI, Gardaí and Ambulance were quick on the scene to assist the man who was taken to Wexford General Hospital for treatment.
'It goes to show how vital those ringbuoys are though,' Tony said. 'They are absolutely vital and they are there to save lives.'
Wexford MarineWatch as well as Wexford County Council regularly maintain the ringbuoys and ensure they are there for just such an incident as this, however, there have been numerous incidents in recent years where the lifesaving equipment has gone missing or been vandalised by mindless thugs.
'I think this incident again illustrates the importance of having ringbuoys readily available to be deployed either by volunteers or members of the public,' said Wexford MarineWatch Chairman Cllr George Lawlor. 'They are regularly maintained and accounted for by MarineWatch volunteers and Wexford County Council and ensures they are available for life-saving events such as this one.'
'Again we see that by ensuring that the ringbuoys are in place, a Wexford family doesn't have to go through the heartache of losing a loved one.'