Rescued swimmer ‘extremely lucky’

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A 22 year old man rescued by air sea rescue helicopter off Malin Head on Friday was “extremely lucky” according to the Coast Guard.

The man whose identity is unknown was plucked from the waters two miles North West of the Isle of Doagh. He had been battling against “ferocious” tides for almost an hour. He was airlifted to Altnagelvin Hospital and later transferred to Letterkenny General when his condition was yesterday described as “stable” by Gardai.

Divisional controller for Malin Head Coast Guard, Derek Flanagan, said: “We urge people to only swim on beaches were a lifeguard is provided.

“Five Finger Strand, from where the man most likely entered the water, has a very strong tidal system and swimming is not recommended.”

On Friday’s rescue Mr. Flanagan said: “We received the call at 3.10pm and immediately tasked the Greencastle Life Boat, the helicopter from Sligo and requested assistance from any other boats in the area. We arrived twenty minutes later but the expert local knowledge of the Malin Head Station proved invaluable. Within 60 seconds of the 999 call they knew where the casualty was going to be and what resources were in that area. The guys are so familiar with the area. If Malin was closed, as has been discussed, many of the staff would not move away and that knowledge would be lost.”

In fact Mr. Flanagan confirmed it was the second time in a week that the helicopter was tasked to the same stretch of water.

“Last Monday two surfers were caught in a rip tide between Malin Head and the Isle of Doagh but mercifully they had managed to get themselves to shore before we arrived.”

Umghal resident, Caroline Muller, who heard the swimmer call for help and dialled 999 said: “He was extremely lucky he was in the water for almost an hour. After 40 minutes I thought he had drowned.

“He started calling for help when a little girl went in after him but she got in trouble and had to be rescued by members of the public also.

“I think this instance shows the need for Malin Head station to be retained. If they hadn’t known the drifts in the area they might not have reached him in time.”

Praising the work of the rescue team Mrs. Muller said: “As soon as the coast guard got there they were brilliant, really fantastic but it could have all been over by then as, While it wasn’t their fault, they took a long time to arrive due to lack of resources.”