By James Ward, PA
A man involved in the daring rescue of a bus driver who crashed into the River Liffey has remained close friends with him for over 20 years.
Demetrios Paraskevakis was among 25 people honoured at the National Bravery Awards in a ceremony at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park on Friday.
In 2000, he sprang into action after witnessing a bus crash through a wall on the Butt Bridge, submerging the front of the vehicle underwater, along with the driver.
Mr Paraskevakis, now 52, along with another passer-by, entered the bus, which was then vertical, using the seats as a makeshift ladder to climb down and drag the driver to safety.
“You didn’t think too much about it, you just went and did it,” he told the PA news agency.
“There was another chap beside me there so I said ‘will we go in?’ He said ‘OK’.
“We hopped up on to the back wheel, opened the emergency exit at the rear of the bus, and climbed in.
“The bus was nearly vertical. So we were using the seats as a kind of ladder.
“That’s how we approached it. At the time we weren’t thinking that much about it.”
He continued: “At the time we didn’t know what was going on with the bus. As we started going down, we couldn’t find anyone. But there had to be a driver. We couldn’t see him because the front of the bus was underwater.
“So we got lower down. The driver actually popped up from the water, so he had obviously released himself from his seatbelt.
“We got as close as we could to the water, I grabbed him by his arms and started to pull him out.”
Mr Paraskevakis, originally from Scotland but living in Dublin, said the most rewarding part of the experience was the friendship he developed with the driver.
“For me, the best thing that happened is I became friends with the guy. He came to my wedding, he came to the christenings of my children,” he said.
“We keep in touch very regularly, I’ve been down to see him a few times.
“That to me is the best thing, knowing his family, his kids, his wife, his extended family.
“That to me is the biggest thing I can take from this. I took the task, what I did helped him and we’ve been friends ever since.”
The Irish Bravery Awards had sought to honour Mr Paraskevakis on three previous occasions before he was finally able to accept the award on Friday.
In total 25 people, including members of An Garda Siochana, the Irish coast guard and ordinary members of the public received certificates of bravery.
The awards were presented by the Ceann Comharile Sean O Fearghail, who said that collectively the winners had saved 20 lives.
He said: “The deeds we honour here are exceptional acts of bravery.
“They mark the moments where people saved the lives of others through their actions, risking their own lives doing so.
“What these awards celebrate is the noblest impulse within a human being, to risk their life in order to save another.
“We honour people who leaped into stormy seas, who braved swollen rivers, climbed down cliffs, assisted at road traffic collisions and performed other remarkable deeds.
“Through their actions there are people alive today, who would undoubtedly have died.”