An off-duty firefighter from Cork has been lauded for his lifesaving efforts over the weekend after risking his own life to save two young children while holidaying in Ardmore, Waterford over the weekend.
John Paul Garde, who is part of the Midleton Fire Brigade, was in Waterford with his family on Saturday when the alarm was raised for two siblings who had gotten into trouble in the water.
Mr Garde told the Neil Prendeville Show on RedFM that he was just out of the water with his own boys when he saw people on the beach shouting and pointing to sea.
As he was in a wetsuit, John Paul swam out to the young boy in difficulty and pulled him to safety, handing him over to his father.
“I was just in the right place at the right time. I had the wetsuit on, I was after coming out of the water myself with my own boys. The first boy was quite close, I actually didn’t spot the second one she was so far out.
“I got to the first boy and grabbed him fairly quickly and handed him back to his father, and I still didn’t spot the girl at that stage.
“The father said to me the girl is out further and I could tell she was a long swim out and I said to him: ‘She is a long way out.’ It is hard to know at that stage when you are in the water what to do. I made the decision to go.
Mr Garde said that he would have been a strong swimmer a few years ago, but would have been a little out of shape for the water at present.
“I made a burst for it, she was stuck in strong currents, undercurrents, out there and just as I got to the young girl, I think she’s about 10 years of age, she just kind of disappeared down.”
The firefighter said he managed to get the child back above water, and kept her afloat. “At that stage, I was stuck in the current myself, I would be fairly comfortable in the water, very relaxed, so I was happy enough at that stage to keep her above water.”
At this point, two other men came out with life rings and threw one to John Paul in order to pull him out of the current.
“They passed me a ring and gave me a tug out and got me out of the current. It made a big difference, just to get out of the current. It was good thinking out of them.
“It became a team effort at that stage, they gave me a pull back out of the current and I was able to make my way slowly back in at that stage.”
Speaking on the radio on Tuesday, Mr Garde said that it had been a group effort that got everyone out of the water that day.
“There was an awful lot of people involved in this, from the people who called the coastguard to the people who rang the ambulance to the people who cleared the beach. It was great to see when I came out of the water, everyone, strangers coming together so quick.”
The Coast Guard Rescue 117 helicopter took the casualty to Waterford Airport and on to Waterford Ambulance Station for treatment and on to University Hospital Waterford.
The condition of the girl is not yet known, but John Paul said he hoped she recovers quickly.
“A good outcome this time, thank god, we got the girl back, hopefully, she is okay. Thanks to everyone else who was involved in that day.”