August 4 will go down as a tragic day on county waters as siblings Muriel Eriksson and Dessie Byrne drowned in Ballybunion, but the date could have been even more catastrophic off the coast of Kerry had it not been for acts of bravery incredible in the county.
n Com Dhíneol, a boy was rescued after encountering difficulties in the water off Corca Dhuibhne. Remarkably, on the exact same date in Fermoyle, in the north of the peninsula, former lifeguard John Timlin took to the water to save a young girl in her mid-teens and prevent tragedy from striking twice at Kerry in a single day.
Today, Monday, the National Ambulance Service showed their appreciation for John’s bravery and gave him a presentation on the beach where he was up to the task. After receiving a first responder medal and a letter of congratulations, John took The Kerryman through the events of August 4.
“I live in Barrow but I have a house in Clochán and I have a tourism company, brandonadventures.com,” he explained. “I do accommodations and offer a range of outdoor activities, surf lessons, stand-up paddleboarding, guided hikes on Mount Brandon. I was at the beach and had a lesson in the morning, I had packed my bags and I was ready to go home. I stayed a little longer than usual because I had to respond to an email, luckily it turned out. Someone tapped on the window, I was parked on the other side ready to go, but they said I was needed. I walked out and saw a girl, quite hysterical, saying her friend was in trouble.
“That day there was an unusually big swell for the season, and they’re creating rip currents… summer is usually calm, but it wasn’t that day. Two other girls had come to the beach with her, all three bathed, and they went up to their chests. A wave came and took them, they had drifted with the wind and in a rip current. The other two girls were able to escape, but the other girl was in trouble.
“I grabbed my board, I jumped on it, I rowed. I was a few minutes out and thought I saw something and headed that way. She was lying, a little motionless, in the water. She had her head up, a wave washed over her and I saw her coughing, which of course was a good sign.
John was able to position the girl on top of the board and bring her down. The ambulance brought her to UHK, where she stayed for two nights, receiving treatment for hypothermia and other problems resulting from the incident. Fortunately, she recovered well and was able to meet John a few days later.
John, a former lifeguard in Ballybunion and Derrynane, said he was delighted if somewhat surprised to receive the honour, but Jonathan Lynch, community engagement manager for the National Ambulance Service South, said it was well deserved .
“This was following feedback we received from the ambulance crew who attended the scene that day,” he said. “We wanted to honor his bravery by responding to this. Without his help, it might have been a different outcome.
John added that although beaches such as Fermoyle are generally safe, you should always check the conditions before heading into the water.
To learn more about Brandon Adventures, visit https://brandonadventures.com/.