LIKE many of his generation, Eoghan Hennessy was lured to the golden beaches, the clear blue skies and the laid-back lifestyle Down Under after graduating in engineering from CIT.
Many of his mates were already there, seeking greener pastures on the employment front.
“Half of East Cork was out there,” recalls Eoghan, from East Ferry,
“After college I had a good job, but I wanted to get a bit of travel under my belt.”
Ten years ago, Eoghan, at 23, was full of the joys of life, and looking forward to new experiences and new adventures in Australia. He never planned on nearly losing his life there.
Now a father of two — Holly Kate, aged two, and three-month-old Teddy Eoghan — Eoghan recalls his brush with death in the unforgiving outback a decade ago, when his vehicle upended in floods.
“I thought I might never be found,” he says, “Somebody must have been praying for me. So many coincidences, so many things went my way.”
Eoghan, who is engaged to his partner Jessica, and who is a talented rock musician and music promoter, knows that he is one of the lucky ones, having cheated death against so many odds.
His multiple injuries due to the fatal road accident in September, 2010, included three fractured vertebrae, several smashed and broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a lacerated liver, a damaged kidney and adrenal gland, a ruptured colon, as well as massive internal bleeding.
“I owe my life to the Flying Doctors,” says Eoghan.
“And to an Irish nurse called Elaine O’Brien who looked after me. We’re still in contact on Facebook.
“My parents, my family and my friends were all there for me. I have to thank them so much for that.”
He knows the extent of his debt of gratitude.
“I thought I might never be found. It did cross my mind that I mightn’t make it,” says Eoghan.
“But I was 100% concentrating on trying to get out of there.”
What was he doing, miles from the outpost of Carinda — population 90 — and a nine hour drive west of Sydney?
“I was working on a 16,000 acre cotton plantation in New South Wales, in Walgett, a place that is very much inland,” says Eoghan.
The location is very isolated.
“There were only two towns within a hundred miles,” says Eoghan. “I drove tractors, loaders and excavators 12 hours a day.”
Weather conditions are usually very hot in the summer in that neck of the woods and often the temperatures can rise to 104F, while winter temperatures can drop to below freezing.
Eoghan was good at what he did. He had a good turn in him.
“On September 8, I agreed to help neighbouring farmer with some excavation work for a few hours,” says Eoghan.
“I usually worked in the sunshine, but it was raining hard that day and it had been raining for days. When I finished up work at the farm, I drove to the nearby town to get some supplies.”
He knew the terrain well, setting off back to the station on a rarely used dirt track. It was a road less travelled.
“The road wasn’t tarred. It was just a dirt trail in the bush,” says Eoghan.
“The roads were in bad condition due to all the rain that had fallen. A section of the road had been washed away from all the rain.”
Eoghan took stock of the situation.
“Halfway from the farm I was returning to, I decided to turn back. Conditions were bad enough and I found it hard to control the vehicle. All of a sudden, it rolled down a slope.”
Eoghan had a narrow escape.
“It turned over several times and in the process I was ejected through the windscreen from the Jeep.”
He thought it was curtains.
“I lost consciousness, for how long, I don’t know, but when I eventually woke up I knew I had to do something,” says Eoghan. “I knew I was in trouble.”
He had trouble breathing.
“I had one small cut over my eye and I knew I was very short on breath. It was getting sharper and sharper and irregular.”
The enormity of his plight dawned on him.
“Geographically, there was no-one else around,” says Eoghan.
With no-one else on the horizon, he had to try and help himself.
“I crawled back to the Jeep .The CB radio inside was smashed.”
The Corkman didn’t give up, despite the pain he was in and the harsh terrain he was in.
“I was slipping in and out of consciousness. I crawled along the dusty track searching for my mobile phone. I was in a lot of pain after the accident.”
There was light at the end of the tunnel. Eoghan was a qualified engineer after all. AND He had a lot to live for and a lot of living yet to do.
“I found the pieces of my phone, the screen was smashed. I tried putting the phone back together.”
When he had completed the painstaking task, Eoghan dialled the last contacts he had dialled; the last lifeline.
“I didn’t know who that was,” says Eoghan. “I dialled the last three numbers on my contacts list. Surely one of them would send help?” It was a case of third time lucky.
Ed Bailey, who was in Perth thousands of miles away, picked up. He guessed something was badly wrong with his friend from back home.
Ed managed to contact Eoghan’s boss, who contacted two farmers he reckoned could find the site where Eoghan was sooner.
What was Eoghan thinking, lying there on the dirt track, miles from anywhere, miles away from his loved ones?
“I was thinking, this is bad,” he says. “I thought I’d never see home again, or never see my family again.”
He was struggling to stay alive; trying to keep up his hopes of being reunited with his family again.
“I found it hard to breathe and I had to take a full gasp for air. I figured my ribs were broken and my lungs had collapsed.”
Eventually, the foot soldiers arrived to rescue Eoghan. The farmers rushed to the site and found him unconscious on the roadside.
Then the cavalry arrived — an ambulance and paramedics. Eoghan was transported to a nearby airstrip to meet the Flying Doctors, (RFDS).
“They took one look at me and decided to fly me straight to intensive care at the hospital in Sydney, and not to the local hospital,” says Eoghan.
“I had a number of operations and I was listed as critical for two weeks after the accident.”
Could anyone go to the hospital and see him?
“Half of East Cork came!” says Eoghan. “The patients in the hospital ward, St Georges’ in Cogra, ended up with Cork accents before Christmas! I was there for six weeks.”
With the luck of the Irish on his side, Eoghan was in good hands.
“A lovely Irish nurse called Elaine O’Brien looked after me,” he says. “I still have to thank her.
“I had a lot of physiotherapy and a lot of occupational therapy after all the injuries I had sustained. I got wonderful care from an incredible team.”
He did a lot of walkabouts.
“I was up and down steps and stairs until I was fully mobile,” says Eoghan.
He was up in the air; on cloud nine.
“I was over the moon at the thought of seeing mum and dad again, I hadn’t seen them in a few years.”
Eoghan flew home to Cork on a wing and a prayer. He made a miraculous recovery, going though three spinal operations in total, the last one in 2015.
“I was discharged from CUH in 2016,” says Eoghan.
He knows just how precious life is.
“I realised how fragile life is. It brought our family much closer.”
And then he began living the life he was destined for.
“I got back into music again,” says Eoghan. “I began playing the mandolin because it was small and I was able to hold it.”
He lo began gigging again with his band, August Walk, and then The Hollz.
“We got loads of bookings,” say Eoghan, who, as well as playing music, works as a booking agent for pubs, Live Music Promotions.
He kept it country and he kept it local. He counts his blessings.
“My fiancée Jessica is from Cobh and we have two amazing children.”
Does he count himself lucky?
“I was lucky and unlucky,” says Eoghan. “I think I was lucky.”
Did his brush with death change his outlook on life?
“I try and make things count. I try not to waste any time. Make it count.”
Eoghan is a trier.
“I try not to sweat the small stuff.
“I lived to tell the tale.”