'They were just happy to be alive' - Father of teenager rescued at sea

The father of one of the two cousins rescued at sea yesterday says the two young women are just h...
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.14 14 Aug 2020

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'They were just happy to be al...

'They were just happy to be alive' - Father of teenager rescued at sea

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.14 14 Aug 2020

Share this article

The father of one of the two cousins rescued at sea yesterday says the two young women are just happy to be alive.

Cousins Ellen Glynn (17) and Sara Feeney (23) drifted out while paddle-boarding at Furbo Beach in Galway on Wednesday night.

The two cousins had to deal with difficult sea conditions, and being unable to draw the attention of a rescue helicopter which was just a few dozen metres away on Wednesday night.


They ultimately managed to cling onto a lobster pot buoy and were eventually found by a local fisherman yesterday morning - 27 kilometres from where they'd set off.

Johnny Glynn, Ellen’s father, spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about the ordeal.

'They were just happy to be alive' - Father of teenager rescued at sea

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He said Ellen was kept in hospital overnight as "her bloods were a little bit low", while Sarah was allowed home.

However, the families got to see both of the young women earlier yesterday when they were dropped off by the helicopter.

Johnny said: "They were in great form... well, they were just happy to be alive I think."

He said he's now just trying to understand everything that happened - and he doesn't even know what day it is as everything happened so fast.

He explained that while the two women go down to the beach almost every evening when the weather is good, but on Wednesday night had to go to a different one - Furbo Beach - as the one they usually go to was closed.

At one stage during the evening, Johnny was upstairs watching the Champions League when he heard his wife suddenly leaving the house.

A few phone calls later, he learned that the Ellen and and Sarah had began drifting away from shore.

Johnny said: "When they went into the water, there was no wind - I guess the wind picked up very, very quickly.

"There was a little bit of time before we could get any help... there were no boats anywhere around that area.

"Every minute they were going further and further out."

Search begins

Johnny said by the time he got there they couldn't see anything as it was "completely dark".

He recalled: "I actually phoned a guy who I know who works in the Doolin ferries... he's involved in fishing, ferries and all that. I phoned him to see if he could find out anything for us.

"He was able to come back to me - he could see on his satellite there were boats on the way out.

"Not too long afterwards, the helicopter did arrive - it's half ten or eleven o'clock at this stage."

Johnny said they could see the helicopter hovering over an area between Galway and Ballyvaughan - with the families assuming they had spotted something in the water.

However, the helicopter soon moved on without finding anything.

'It was a rough night'

By around midnight, Johnny said they didn't know what to do.

In the early hours of the morning, he  and his wife Deirdre decided to head to the Co Clare side of the coast.

It didn't get bright until after 5am, but from first light they began working their way along the coast in the hopes of finding the two young women.

Johnny said: "With each minute ticking... you don't know. They were a long time in the water at that stage. It was a rough night as well - there were a lot of heavy showers, and thunder and lightning.

"I started to think that I needed to get as many people searching as possible.

"We only had on Thursday from first light until last night. I knew that was a very, very important time."

He began messaging people and asked people to get involved in the operation.

Meanwhile, Johnny and Deirdre headed back to Galway.

Ellen's siblings were still in bed, and their parents had to break the news to them yesterday morning.

Johnny said at that stage he just wanted to find Ellen and Sarah - and he was hoping they were still together.

Good news

Johnny recalled that they heard the good news around lunchtime yesterday.

He said: "We knew they were safe and where they were."

He explained that his daughter told him she and Sarah had ended up by the Cliffs of Moher.

He said: "I don't know how they ended up there, but that's quite a good bit further. She said to me 'we were at the Cliffs of Moher, and we could see the islands'.

"There was no way of landing at the Cliffs of Moher... so they had to try to make their way to the islands without getting pulled out to the Atlantic."

At one stage, the helicopter was maybe only around 50 metres away from them.

Johnny explained: "They were screaming, but nobody in the helicopter could hear... they just got really unlucky.

"Imagine their spirits when they weren't picked up by the helicopter.

"Their challenge then was to get to the islands.

"They were watching out for a lifebuoy to give them some support. They spotted these lobster pots, and they clung on to those.

"They could see boats in the distance, but they couldn't understand why they weren't coming to them."

However, a boat did ultimately arrive to rescue them: after 15 hours at sea, Ellen and Sarah were found by local fisherman Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan.

Johnny said: "In the hospital, they had two little hats on them - the two lads on the boat gave their hats to Ellen and Sarah.

"They got on the boat. They gave them whatever food was on the boat... she said she had a flavoured water drink."

Johnny said he didn't know "where to start" when thanking people for their help - but paid particular tribute to the Olivers for bringing Ellen and Sarah to safety.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

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