Two holiday makers have been lauded as heroes after they dramatically rescued six people, including two children, from the water at Portnablagh after their boat sank near Dunfanaghy. And the rescuers believe that the difference between life and tragedy was life jackets.
By good fortune the visitors were experienced boat men with one of them a serving member of the RNLI.
At approximately 4.30pm on Tuesday, brothers Richard and Sam Burgess, who were holidaying in the Dunfanaghy area, were enjoying a fishing trip on their ‘Red Bay’ boat when they heard a distress call being issued by the Coastguard via their VHF radio.
As it matched the location they were fishing in, they answered it and began searching the area. Between Marble Hill beach and the headland at Portnablagh they located a stricken vessel, described as an ‘18ft yacht’ that was mostly submerged and its passengers, including two children including one believed to be as young as four, in the water.
They quickly intervened and brought the people, who are from the Creeslough area and who had been in the water for approximately ten minutes, aboard. They then took them to the safety of Portnablagh harbour where they were met by the Downings Lifeboat crew. They were badly shaken but no one was seriously injured.
Holidaymaker Richard Burgess, who is an RNLI member based in Newcastle, County Down describes how the drama unfolded.
“We were lucky enough that we were the first boat on the scene. We were out on Sheephaven at about 4.30pm, doing a bit of fishing and then Sam, who has a good marine radio on the boat, just heard the coastguard putting the Mayday out for all vessels and his ears pricked up when he heard the location. So we pulled the rods in and got on the radio back to the coastguard and said we were in the vicinity and we would take a look,” Richard explained.
When they travelled around the headland the first thing the noticed was debris floating on the surface.
“We went around the coast and saw a lot of debris on the water so we knew we were close to it. We saw about a metre of the white bow of the boat was coming up out of the water and bit across we saw the six casualties in the water,” he added.
He said they were all badly shaken when brought aboard starting with the children. They gave them jackets to keep them warm until they brought them back to dry land.
Richard says he feels the life jackets prevented the incident from being a tragedy and that the RNLI cannot stress enough the importance of having them and also a VHF radio when your boating.
“We were the boat that pulled them in but it was their life jackets that saved them,” he said.
Richard says he didn’t let the incident affect his and Sam’s summer holidays too much. After the ordeal was over they returned to sea and later cooked the days catch of mackerel on the barbecue.