Local heroes speak of dramatic rescue at Culmore Point slipway

Local heroes: Transport NI/ DRD workers Raymond Shields and Darren McGrellis at the Culmore Point slipway.
Local heroes: Transport NI/ DRD workers Raymond Shields and Darren McGrellis at the Culmore Point slipway.

Two Derry men have spoken of the dramatic events which resulted in them saving the life of a man whose car was sliding off a slipway into the River Foyle.

Transport NI (Roads Service) employees, Darren McGrellis and Raymond Shields have been hailed as heroes since Tuesday’s dramatic rescue at Culmore Point, close to a stretch of the Foyle that is so deep it is used by ships to turn.

The rocks on the seaweed in the foreground mark the spot of where the man's back tyres had slipped to. The rocks further out towards the river mark where his front tyres where.

The rocks on the seaweed in the foreground mark the spot of where the man's back tyres had slipped to. The rocks further out towards the river mark where his front tyres where.

This week’s incident comes just a month after five members of the same Derry family tragically lost their lives after the car they were in slid off a slipway into Lough Swilly.

A 61-year-old man who was trapped in his car, was frantically telephoning the emergency services for help when the duo arrived and swept into action.

The men, who were working in the area at the time, had gone to the Point at around 12.45am on Tuesday.

Speaking at the scene of the rescue, Mr Shields (40), from the Waterside said: “We were working in this area and after taking our tea, we got out to stretch our legs and walked down this direction here and then heard the commotion.

The lorry used by the DRD Transport NI workers to  haul the car off the slipway as it was slipping into the Foyle.

The lorry used by the DRD Transport NI workers to haul the car off the slipway as it was slipping into the Foyle.

“A man was on the phone to the emergency services at this stage. He was shouting and panicking.”

“He was in a bit of a tizzy.”

Mr McGrellis took the phone from the man because he was so distressed, and the emergency services advised them to get the man out of the car.

The situation was further complicated because the man was disabled and on crutches, but they still managed to get the handbrake on, turn off the engine and get him out of the car.

Mr McGrellis (38), who is originally from Carnhill and now lives in the Waterside, said: “We removed him from the car and took him up to a park bench and Raymond sat with him and I ran into the lorry to get him a drink of water and stuff to get him calmed down.

“He was very shaken up. ‘I feel stupid’, he kept saying.”

The man they saved expressed embarrassment and kept apologising at the scene.

“We were sat there and that’s when we noticed the car starting to slide in,” Mr McGrellis said. “The two of us ran down and we started putting rocks underneath the car and by that stage then the Fire Brigade landed.”

With the fire engine too big to get to the slipway, the Transport NI workers used their own lorry with its snow plough bracket and ropes to pull the man’s vehicle to safety.

Once the car was safely affixed, Darren went into the vehicle while Raymond, who was in the lorry pulled the car away from the pier.

“We were just in the right place at the right time and that was it,” Raymond said.

Following his ordeal the man they saved repeatedly thanked Raymond and Darren and told them they needed to be recognised and rewarded for what they had done.

Noel Gailey, DRD Transport NI Depot Supervisor in Derry, said the workers were all very proud of the duo.

Commenting on the incident, a Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We received a call at 12.58pm to attend an incident involving a car stuck on a slipway at Culmore Point, Derry.

“One appliance from Northland Fire Station attended the scene. The incident was dealt with by 1.19pm.”