He has been hailed as the ‘surfboard saviour’.
But, modest Jason McGrugan has played down his heroics in flood-hit east Belfast.
The 39-year-old hospital worker helped ferry at least 15 people — including two elderly gentlemen — up the swamped Castlereagh Road on his paddle board.
Even the PSNI were availing of his help.
“I am not after any sort of glory or anything,” Jason told the Belfast Telegraph. “It started out as a bit of a laugh but, I was glad to be able to help people. I am no hero, I'm just an ordinary 39-year-old lad.”
Jason, a qualified kite surf instructor, is more used to riding the waves at Tyrella or White Rocks beaches. However, his skills came in handy when many of the government agencies fell short for the local community. “I was working a 14-hour shift at the Royal (Victoria Hospital),” he said. “I was on from 7am to 9pm but, was able to leave a bit early because I was worried that my own house had been flooded.
“Thankfully I wasn’t affected. So, I was thinking of going to the shop at the end of the street to get a bottle of wine to relax for the evening. But, a neighbour who lives two doors up said ‘get that surfboard of yours out’.
“I only took it out because my neighbour told me to. I paddled up to the end of the street and then it became apparent that a lot of people were stranded. There were a lot of people looking to get to the top of Castlereagh Road.”
Jason became an immediate internet sensation when images of him wearing shorts and a vest paddling up and down what is normally one of Belfast’s busiest thoroughfares went viral through social networking sites.
He spent almost two hours escorting people up and down the road which was flooded with waist-high water. “I was glad to be able to do something,” he added. “There was one elderly man who was in a terrible panic because he needed to get to his medication that was in his house. So, to be able to help him was great.
“There was another elderly man who had left the engine in his car running. He had been in the tanning shop and he needed to get across the street to his car so I helped him too.
“I just told people to get into the middle of the board and then I paddled them wherever it was they wanted to go.
“One PSNI officer even asked me to go and check on an elderly woman who was living at Loopland Park and see if she was OK.”
Jason has lived in the Loopland area of east Belfast for just over six years. He is already highly regarded by his neighbours but, now, everyone in the area knows his name.