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horrific case Mother of girl brain damaged after being trapped under rowing boat calls for new safety guidelines

Despite suffering temporary paralysis, brain damage and cardiac arrest, Amy made miraculous recovery

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Amy Mulcahy with her parents, Sharon and Mark.

Amy Mulcahy with her parents, Sharon and Mark.

Amy Mulcahy with her parents, Sharon and Mark.

The mother of a girl who sustained life changing injuries due to being trapped under water for several minutes after a rowing boat capsized, said she hopes the tragic incident will focus attention on safety guidelines at rowing clubs around the country.

Sharon Mulcahy said her daughter, Amy, (15), has made a miraculous recovery despite suffering brain damage and temporary paralysis after going into cardiac arrest following the incident in Limerick, in February 2019.

Amy was one of five children aged between 12 and 13, who were on board an Olympic-style rowing boat that was swept towards Thomond Weir, Limerick, and then capsized during a activity organised by the Athlunkard Boat Club, Limerick.

A report published last Tuesday by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), found an “absence of viable safety culture” as well as a “complacent attitude towards safety” at Athlunkard Boat Club, and that this contributed to what occurred - a charge the boat club refutes.

The report which recommended an immediate review of safety code of practices at rowing clubs across the State, “especially in relation to minors”, also found that the capsized boat was made up of a crew of “trainees and novices, inexperienced with Olympic style rowing”.

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Amy Mulcahy

Amy Mulcahy

Amy Mulcahy

The crew were not wearing flotation devices, but were not required to do so, in line with rules regarding such boats.

The report also recommended that the sport’s governing body, Rowing Ireland, clarify its policy on club safety practices, as well as its own role in enforcement of safety, and that Athlunkard Boat Club immediately carry out an audit of its safety practices.

Sharon Mulcahy said she did not want to comment specifically on the MCIB report, but she said it had been “devastating” for her and her family to read the report’s conclusions on safety at the boat club.

“We are very upset, but I hope that this report saves somebody else from having to live with what we lived with for the past two and half years and hopefully it will save the next child, and that people will be more mindful of safety.”

“We have to be mindful of Amy, it’s been very hard on her, but I would urge parents to ensure that they follow all the safety guidelines and to make sure that every club has safety guidelines in place.”

“I hope Amy’s case will save the next person, that it will never ever happen to another family again.”

Despite the “horrific journey” Amy and her family have been on since the incident, Ms Mulcahy said they remain focussed on her daughter’s “positive” recovery.

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She thanked the makers of the RTE television programme DIY SOS which rebuilt the family home in 2020, in order to provide wheelchair access for Amy; Amy’s doctors and nurses, school teachers and anyone else who has supported the family through their ordeal.

Paying tribute to her daughter, who has learned to walk and talk again, and who has started secondary school, Ms Mulcahy said: “Amy is a very motivated, inspirational young girl who is very committed to getting better and doing her therapies everyday and she is a very busy girl who is looking forward into the future with hope, dreams and goals.”

“She’s an amazing little girl and her Dad, and I, and her brother, are so proud of her.”

“Her goal in life is to be a beautician, and she will reach that goal. She really is a miracle, somebody was minding her that day, both her (grandmothers) have passed away and I can only hope and believe that both of them were minding her on the morning of the accident, they were definitely there for her.”

Amy continues to require a stick and a wheelchair for long distance journeys, but she has progressed to walking unaided in her home, her mother said.

Becoming emotional, Ms Mulcahy added: “Amy has defied all medical odds, she’s still here, she has plans, and she is such a courageous young girl, she has fought every step of the way, we are so proud of her, we really are.”

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