COLM Plunkett from Birr in Co Offaly found himself in the middle of a dramatic sea rescue in Beara last week after he was swept into the sea by a freak wave while fishing off the Dursey Sound.
In an episode which bore many similarties to the dreadful Baltimore tragedy in June, Colm was swept into a sea which he said had appeared calm up to that point.
Thankfully, Colm, who works as a nurse at Tullamore General Hospital, has made a full recovery, and believes it was his lifejacket, and his rescue ‘plan’, that saved him. Colm is now calling on all fishermen to wear lifejackets while fishing off rocks.
‘It was a harrowing ordeal and while I’m physically fine, I am a bit emotionally and mentally scarred, especially after hearing about the drowning of a fisherman in Waterford this week,’ said an emotional Colm Plunkett, speaking to The Southern Star.
‘It cuts me to the core and I know what he went through. I am alive today because I was wearing a lifejacket, which is as essential as having a rod on a fishing line. Buying a lifejacket should be any fisherman’s top priority.’
Bizarrely, a friend of Colm’s took a picture of him happily fishing, moments before he was swept into sea (right).
A regular visitor to the Beara Peninsula and a big fan of fishing, Colm often stays at Windy Point House B&B and was there last weekend with his 16-year-old daughter, Orlaith, who raised the alarm once she spotted Colm getting into trouble.
‘What was also crucial is that we have a plan, which means that if someone goes into the water, you don’t go in after them, but you ring emergency services immediately. That’s exactly what Orlaith did and she remained calm while ringing the Coast Guard and listened to them.’
It was after midday when a freak wave swept Colm into the sea and as the current was so strong, he realised he couldn’t get back in. He managed to cling onto a buoy off a lobster plot and was in the water for about 55 minutes before rescuers came to his aid.
‘All the rescuers arrived at the same time and the guys from Derrynane Inshore Rescue got to me first. I was extremely cold and probably wasn’t aware of it until I got out of the water. Rescuers told me that I was the first fisherman to be pulled out alive by them, and the first fisherman to be wearing a life jacket at the time.’ Colm was suffering from hypothermia and was airlifted to Cork University Hospital by the Shannon-based Coast Guard helicopter.
He was released the following day and since then he has gone public on his rescue to reiterate the importance of wearing lifejackets.
‘I have initiated this publicity to get the word out there to all those fishing that it’s vital that they wear a lifejacket. Two things saved me – wearing a life jacket and having a plan in place. My heart goes out to the three people who drowned earlier this summer in Baltimore, as it’s so hard not to go into the water when someone is in difficulty and it takes great courage not to go in. I’m just glad Orlaith didn’t go in.’
Colm also wants to thank all the locals and rescue services who came to both his, and his daughter’s aid, last Sunday and he hopes to be back in Beara again.
‘It won’t put me off fishing, but my wife Jacqueline has banned me from it for a while. But that can be negotiated,’ he said.