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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lucky angler in his own words

Three months ago, Tom Shiel reported this news in the Irish Times entitled "'Lucky' angler rescued off Achill":

A MAN who slipped and fell into the sea while shore angling on Achill Island, Co Mayo, on Saturday survived by treading water for about 90 minutes until a rescue helicopter winched him to safety.

The man, who did not have a lifejacket or other buoyancy aid, had to contend with strong currents.

“He certainly is a very lucky man,” said one rescuer yesterday, who did not wish to be named.

The man, who was later treated for hypothermia at Mayo General Hospital, is in his 40s and is visiting Achill.

He went shore fishing at a place known locally as White Stone Quarry near Dugort on the north side of Achill Island with a companion on Saturday.

Shortly after 2pm, the man slipped into the sea and could not get out because of a steep, slippery incline. Sea conditions were rough at the time with a force four or force five wind blowing.

The man, who is from the Birmingham area of England, was quickly swept out to sea by a strong current.

Yesterday the Mayo News published the details in the angler's own words:
Patrick Williamson, from Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham, was fishing along the rocks at the back of Whitestone Quarry at Slievemore on the north side of Achill Island. He tells The Mayo News how his life flashed before his eyes when a wave dragged him out to sea before he was rescued by the Achill Island Coastguard.

I WAS over in Ireland for a three week period for a conference in Kerry for the National Federation of Demolition Contractors, which I chair. My wife Jacqueline (nee McNamara) is from Achill and I travelled there on Friday to do a bit of fishing at the back of Slievemore. I had a colleague with me and at about 2pm a freak wave came on the rocks and caught the back of my legs and I slid into the water. The alarm was raised about five minutes later by my colleague.
There was a strong current and I couldn’t get out of the water and the tide was turning which pushed me further and further out. I was trying to keep afloat but it was hard and it felt like someone was dragging at my ankles. I was terrified and exhausted and I was saying to myself to just keep on top of the waves and not go under. I have to say that what people say about near death experiences and their life flashing through their eyes is all true. While I was in the water I just kept recounting all I did in my life.

I thought I was a goner but when I saw the orange jackets on the shore and saw them waving to me it gave me encouragement to hold on for a while longer. The Coastguard dinghy came up beside me and I was winched into the helicopter and brought to Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar. At the time I did not realise how ill I was until I was told my body temperature was 26 degrees when it should be 38. I also lost a stone and a half while I was in the water. I was five days in Intensive Care suffering from hypothermia and the list of things that could have killed me if I was in the water for much longer was so long, it was hard to believe.

I am so glad to be alive today but I wouldn’t have made it without the heroes in the Achill Coastguard. They are all volunteers and they all risked their life to help me and I have to say they deserve all the praise they get. They are a credit to the island of Achill and deserve better facilities than they have.”
All it happened was "a freak wave came on the rocks and caught the back of my legs and I slid into the water", yes, it's that simple. It happens just in that very brief of a moment. Mr. Williamson was very lucky indeed. We congratulate for his luck and we are grateful to hear his real story during that brief moment in his own words. The harsh danger of being on those rocky shore and beaches just can not be over emphasized!

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