Thursday 23 November 2017

14-year-old fighting for her life after wave washed her out to sea

By David Looby

FEARS are growing for the 14-year-old girl who was swept out to sea from the rocks at Hook Head on Sunday.

The girl was among 14 teenagers who were sitting on rocks at Hook Head on Sunday afternoon when a wave washed over them. She was knocked unconscious and was kept afloat, with her head above water, by the boy, who has been hailed a hero. Eyewitnesses said only 11 of the youths remained after the giant wave crashed on top of them. Two other youths were also swept into the sea, but they managed to scramble to the safety of the shoreline.

A major search and rescue operation swung into action after a 999 call was made.

An Irish Coastguard spokesperson said: 'We got a call from a member of the public at 2.04 p.m.'

The Rescue 117 helicopter was on scene at 2.15 p.m. by which time one of the group had made it back onto the rocks. A 15-year-old boy was seen helping to keep the 14-year-old girl's head above water some distance from the rocks, while trying to remain afloat in the swell for around 15 minutes.

The Fethard-on-Sea and Dunmore East lifeboats were tasked to attend and they arrived, but the helicopter crew were already in place. The boy and girl were winched into the helicopter at 2.20 p.m. and taken to University Hospital Waterford. The Coastguard spokesperson said the crew were unsure as to whether or not more people were in the water. He said during the rescue operation a jacket emergency beacon went off.

Hook Lighthouse Manager Ann Waters praised the bravery of the boy who used his strength to keep the girl afloat.

'He must have been under huge pressure. I don't know how he did it. We would commend the rescue services for their brave work.'

She said the sea was rough after Storm Desmond, adding that 14 scouts and two leaders were on the rocks on Sunday. They returned to Hook Lighthouse after the rescue.

'They were all traumatised, cold and in shock. Three first responders administered first aid as some of them had cuts and grazes. The Coastguard got ambulances to come and some were taken to hospital.'

Ms Waters said it can take three days for the Celtic Sea to calm down after a storm of the magnitude of Storm Desmond. 'It may seem like a grand day but the sea is different. There is no such thing as a freak wave. Anything can happen in the middle of the ocean.'

The boy was treated for shock and mild hypothermia and is understood to have been released from UHW.

There was also praise for the Irish Coastguard helicopter winchman's efforts to lift both to safety at the same time. He was concerned about leaving one teenager behind while he rescued the other and so decided to rescue them both together. Weather conditions made winching them extremely difficult.

The girl, a Junior Cert student, was last night in a critical condition and was expected to be airlifted to Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin. Scouting Ireland is undertaking a review of the incident at Hook Head and of their protocols and procedures.

Wexford People

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