A FATHER and son who found the two women who had been missing at sea for over 15 hours returned to shore yesterday to a well-deserved heroes welcome.
Patrick Oliver and his 18-year-old son Morgan joined the search for cousins Sara Feeney, 23, and Ellen Glynn, 17, after they were blown out to sea off the coast of Galway late on Wednesday night.
The cousins, who were on paddleboats, were missing for more than 15 hours when they were discovered in the water over 18 miles from their original location.
Patrick and Morgan, fishermen who are local to the area, took their boat out yesterday morning in search for the girls following an appeal for help from Gardaí and rescue services.
They found Ellen and Sara clinging to buoys attached to a lobster pot around 2 miles from the coast of Inis Oirr island, close to the Clare border near the Cliffs of Moher.
Emotional scenes at Galway Port as fisherman Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan return from saving the lives of two young women in Galway @RTENewsNow @GalwayLifeboat #alive pic.twitter.com/YOOC0Zcn8T
— TERESA MANNION (@TeresaMannion) August 13, 2020
As the news spread that the girls had been found alive and well, RNLI rescuers said they had jumped for joy and even shed some tears.
And as Patrick and Morgan returned to shore, they were greeted with cheers and applause from the gathered crowds.
A very well deserved welcome to @portofgalway for our Crew member Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan after rescuing the 2 ladies from Inis Oír. Thank you to all our SAR colleagues who assisted with this search throughout the night and this morning @RNLI #FantasticOutcome pic.twitter.com/ydHxEvq8Da
— RNLI Galway Lifeboat (@GalwayLifeboat) August 13, 2020
RTÉ News were present for the joyous homecoming on Galway Bay yesterday, where the fishermen's family-- wife Suzanne and daughters Lily and Ella-- swept them into hugs and kisses.
Lily and Ella told the outlet that they knew their father would not give up on searching for the missing young women until they had been found, because, as he has daughters he would have been thinking 'what if it were my girls who were missing?'.
Patrick Oliver told RTÉ News that he had "thought about their poor mother on the beach all night looking for them", and that he was delighted to be able to reunite the cousins with their family.
His son, Morgan, first spotted the girls "waving their paddles up in the air" while clinging to the buoys.
The fishermen wrapped them in oilskin jackets to keep them warm before paramedics arrived.
"They were definitely in shock but the weather is warm so they were lucky," he said.
Cousins aged 17 and 23 are recovering in a Galway hospital this evening following their dramatic rescue close to Inis Oírr earlier today. After spending 15 hours in the water, they were found clinging to a buoy, via @rtenews.pic.twitter.com/E1fHGcOr9U
— RTÉ (@rte) August 13, 2020
"They were weak and tired of course but they were sitting up and [there was] a little bit of chat out of them. We got them in the boat and we brought them into the island and the chopper landed there."
"They were fairly shook but they were thankful."
Taoiseach Micheál Martin is among those paying tribute to the hero father-and-son duo, saying he welcomed the news of the girls' rescue "very very warmly".
"I think it underlines obviously the importance of all of us being very careful all of the time," he said.
"But also I think the importance of the emergency services and the voluntary groups across the country who do so much to try and protect our citizens on an ongoing basis and particularly in our coastal communities, sometimes they don't get the appreciation they deserve."
Sara and Ellen are recovering in University Hospital, Galway, and are said to be doing well.