15 Cork heroes were honoured after they saved numerous lives following dramatic water rescues carried out over the last two years.
The recipients were recognised at a Water Safety Ireland’s National Annual Awards Ceremony awards ceremony, which was held online on Tuesday, November 24. In total fifty-one lives were saved from drowning by rescuers nationwide.
Brave garda Nigel Desmond was one of the Cork award winners. On February 12 2020, Nigel arrived at Lancaster Quay to find a man semi-submerged in freezing cold water and holding onto a ringbuoy that had been thrown to him. Nigel, who was on patrol in the immediate vicinity at the time, jumped in straight away and kept the man’s head above water. Nigel gallantly pulled the man along with him until he managed to get close to the riverbank before the arrival of the Cork Fire Brigade’s Swift Water Rescue Team.
A modest Nigel was delighted to receive his award following his heroics. “It is a nice award and I was proud to receive it. It will be nice to look back on this award in years to come. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and thankfully the story had a happy ending,” said Nigel.
Garda Desmond, who is based in the Bridewell Garda Station, where he is working in a city centre policing unit, recalled how he got a call saying there was a man in the river and in obvious distress as he reflected back on the fateful night. “My colleague and I raced to the scene. We saw the man holding on to a buoy which had been thrown in. We initially tried to lift the man out. However, the water was so cold which resulted in the man losing control of the buoy and he was swept down the river. I jumped in then as the situation was escalating rapidly. Luckily enough I caught a hold of him, continued to keep his head above water and brought him to safety. I got him up onto a ledge and held him until emergency services came to help,” recalled the modest hero.
Nigel who is a self-confessed ‘handy swimmer’ had no hesitation in jumping in when he saw the gravity of the situation. “I had no hesitation. If I had let him go, It would have haunted me for the rest of my days. I didn’t take into account the boots and the full uniform which were a handy weight alright. My boots were like blocks. The water was also freezing. Another few seconds could have resulted in a totally different outcome. Thankfully he was rescued and he is alive and well. I was brought to the Mercy Hospital for a check up, but thankfully I was given the all clear. I was only in the water for 30 seconds or so,” Nigel said.
The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys acknowledged the recipients of the rescue awards which were presented to a total of 67 rescuers in appreciation for saving 51 lives following 32 incidents.
“It was an honour to pay tribute to these deserving award recipients. Without their bravery, quick thinking and selflessness, the outcomes could have been very different. On average, ten people drown in Ireland every month and while one drowning is one too many, the figure would have been higher but for these courageous rescuers,” Ms Humphreys said.