Man saves parents dragged out to sea
A strong current pulled his parents while they were wading in the waters
By Alana Fearon
DUBLIN, Ireland — The parents of a young man who risked his life to save them from drowning said yesterday: "He's our hero."
Karl Fitzgerald was enjoying a family holiday at his aunt's house in West Cork on August 25 when he turned life-saver to rescue parents Michael and Pauline.
The couple, from Dundrum, South Dublin, waded into the water at popular tourist spot Chimney Cove to paddle in the surf.
But a lethal current dragged the terrified pair out to sea and left them unable to swim back to safety.
When 28-year-old Karl realised his mum and dad were in danger he ran out along the rocks near where they were fighting for their lives and pulled his mum to safety.
Despite the unfolding drama, he kept calm enough to direct his cousin Michael Bailey to rescue his dad and ride the waves to an inlet out of danger.
Amazingly, Karl's heroics weren't the first time he'd risked his life to save someone from the water.
Two years ago he pulled a man out of the Shannon after he got into trouble and a few years before that he saved a young girl's life in Sligo.
But the modest tattoo artist refused to bask in glory as he was honoured at the Irish Water Safety's National Awards Ceremony yesterday - insisting "it's what any son would have done". Karl told the Irish Mirror: "That day went from being a very nice, very enjoyable family day at the beach to a nightmare situation but thank God we managed to get mum and dad to safety.
"My parents had gone off into the water and myself and my cousin went off to play a little ball and I saw my parents easing in to go paddle but for some reason I looked back round and couldn't see them any more so I went down to the end of the rocks.
"I could see they were in an awful state. The current was pushing them out and they were getting dragged around and there were waves coming up over the top of their heads so I called my cousin Mike and then I jumped straight in and grabbed my mum."
While Karl fought to keep his mum's head above the water, Mike grabbed his dad and followed them to safety.
Karl added: "I kept telling everyone not to swim against the current because my parents were taking on a lot of water and they were fatigued so we decided to make our way around the rocks and to use the current to our advantage and use the waves to drag us to a little inlet.
"Instinct kicked in and I just knew not to fight against the current, you never win. I could see mum and dad were none going nowhere even though they were swimming with all their might.
"We were all in holiday mode, we didn't have a care in the world and I suppose you just think it will never happen to you but it did and thank God I was there."
Describing their son as "our hero", Michael and Pauline said they were eternally indebted to him.
Pauline added: "It was a miracle. If Karl hadn't been there we would have drowned, simple as that.
"The current was too strong and at one stage I just looked up to the rocks and saw Karl and screamed, 'We're drowning. Help', and he jumped in and grabbed me and Michael's nephew got him.
"I didn't panic. I knew if I did I would drag Karl down so I just kept praying that we would get to the rocks."
Michael added: "He's our hero. We shouldn't have been swimming in that part but the sign was so far up the mountain we didn't see it.
"We later found out there'd been a rescue there the day before we got into trouble so it's clearly a danger spot.
"I haven't gone swimming since. I don't think I ever will.
"One minute we were wading, the next thing a big wave came in and dragged us out.
"It took me hours to get over the shock and being at these awards has brought it all back but thank God we're here to tell the story."
Karl was among 26 rescuers from 22 dramatic near-death incidents who received special recognition awards at the Irish Water Safety's National Awards ceremony in Dublin City Hall yesterday.
The heroes saved 36 lives between them. Karl's brother Robert nominated him for the award as a way of thanking him for saving their family.
Paramedic Robert revealed: "I felt Karl deserved recognition because as a paramedic I am exposed to these emergencies every day and know the stress and trauma but for a lay person like Karl to save two lives is outstanding.
"It was a week after it all happened when I found out because they were still in shock and they wanted to keep it to themselves but as soon as I got wind of it I knew what I had to do. Karl has kept our family intact and none of us will ever forget that."
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