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‘miracle’ rescue Pod of dolphins surrounded exhausted swimmer rescued from Kerry coast after 12 hours in water

The man, believed to be in his early 30s, was plucked from the water by Fenit RNLI lifeboat at 8.15pm on Sunday in a ‘miracle’ rescue

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Fenit RNLI crew. From left: Coxswain Finbarr O'Connell, Kevin Honeyman, Lee Sugrue, Giles Kelliher, Des Sugrue, Kevin Deady, Coxswain Denise Lynch and Coxswain John J Moriarty

Fenit RNLI crew. From left: Coxswain Finbarr O'Connell, Kevin Honeyman, Lee Sugrue, Giles Kelliher, Des Sugrue, Kevin Deady, Coxswain Denise Lynch and Coxswain John J Moriarty

Fenit RNLI crew. From left: Coxswain Finbarr O'Connell, Kevin Honeyman, Lee Sugrue, Giles Kelliher, Des Sugrue, Kevin Deady, Coxswain Denise Lynch and Coxswain John J Moriarty

A coxswain used his knowledge of the tides to help rescue a swimmer 4km from shore after 12 hours in the waters of Tralee Bay.

The man, believed to be in his early 30s, was plucked from the water by Fenit RNLI lifeboat at 8.15pm on Sunday in a ‘miracle’ rescue.

A school of dolphins had also surrounded the hypothermic and exhausted man, who is believed to be from Derry, off the Co Kerry coastline.

The man told rescuers he had intended to swim out to Mucklaghmore Rock, 9km out from where he set off at Castlegregory beach.

He was found more than 12 hours later, wearing only a pair of swimming trunks, after RNLI coxswain Finbarr O’Connell calculated where the man was likely to be having studied tides in the area.

Yesterday, Fenit RNLI volunteer Jackie Murphy said it had been a ‘miracle’ the man had survived the ordeal, and credited Mr O’Connell with pinpointing the man’s likely location.

Meanwhile, coxswain Mr O’Connell noted that when he and his colleagues found the man, there were “a lot of dolphins around”.

He added: “Maybe they helped him in some way or another: who knows?”

The man’s rescue came after an intensive search by Fenit RNLI and R118 coastguard across Tralee Bay.

Ms Murphy was clear the man’s survival was due to the “brilliance” of coxswain Mr O’Connell. “It’s a miracle he was found,” she said.

However, speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr ­O’Connell refused to take all the credit, saying: “The crew we have are all excellent. It’s good to get a positive result. Normally we go out, and it mightn’t be that positive. We are all just elated.”

Mr O’Connell went on: “He was very, very lucky. There is no doubt about it. Another half an hour, and he was a goner. None of us or the medics can believe he ­survived it.”

He recalled that rescuers who saw the man’s head in the water at first thought they had spotted a seal. “But then he put up his hand. It was a great, great moment for us,” he said. “The elation of seeing somebody floating alive in the water, rather than the other way, is so great. We have had too many bad outcomes, so it was absolutely fantastic to pick him up.

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“It is literally beyond us all (how he survived).

“He was only wearing a pair of trunks. He had no wetsuit. Nothing. He must have been a good swimmer because he was just over two and a half miles (4km) from the beach.

“His body temperature was so low. It dropped way down. The medics were amazed with him. He reckoned he went in around 8am, and at 8.15pm we picked him up.

“He did spend that amount of time in the water, and I don’t know how he did it.

“It’s incredible, really.”

When pressed on how he had charted the trajectory of the swimmer across the expanse of Tralee Bay, Mr O’Connell said: “We are training for this all the time.

“We have a mannequin we throw in the water, which (behaves) like a person in the water. Then we go away and do an exercise for a few hours, and we see how far it has drifted. When we pick it up, we note in the chart which way the tide is going. So we applied that knowledge yesterday.”

Ms Murphy said the rescue was a great day for Fenit RNLI but urged swimmers to exercise caution.

“Always please tell somebody what time you are due back and where you are going,” she said.

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