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Off-duty paramedic in daring rescue

Published 15/04/2015

A paramedic rescued a young tourist he happened to see being swept off cliffs on Ireland's Atlantic coast.

Aparajita Gupta, from India, was taking in dramatic ocean views on the edge of the Aran island of Inis Mor when she was swept 45 feet (14m) into the water.

The 21-year-old was with her mother Simran at the unique rock formation known locally as Poll na bPeist, or worm hole, when the accident happened last Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm just really glad to be alive," she said from her hospital bed.

Ms Gupta, who turned 21 last Saturday, had been on a cliff edge facing out on to the Atlantic when a huge wave crashed on to the shore and washed her into the giant rock formation, into which which swells pour in and out.

Seamus McCarthy, a paramedic from Ennis, Co Clare, had been on the island for a short break with his girlfriend Fionnuala when he saw the incident.

While other onlookers ran several hundred yards to get phone coverage and raise the alarm, the Mr McCarthy tied a canvas jacket to a backpack to form a makeshift winch to drag Ms Gupta up a cliff at the side of the giant limestone formation.

"I think I'm going to hug him when I see him," she said. "He really saved my life. The only thing I remember when I woke up was his face. I'm lucky to be alive.

"Nothing I say or do is enough to thank him and the rest of the team - Garda Brian O'Donnell, Seamus' girlfriend Fionnuala and all the others."

The accident spot is a natural rectangular pool which Atlantic swells pour in and out of at the bottom of sea cliffs near the Dun Aonghasa prehistoric fort, and it has hosted Red Bull Cliff Diving.

Aparajita Gupta was on the edge of the Aran island cliff when she was swept 45 feet (14m) into the water
Aparajita Gupta was on the edge of the Aran island cliff when she was swept 45 feet (14m) into the water
The accident happened on the island of Inis Mor, which hosted the 2012 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, seen here at Poll na bPeist

The woman's mother became hysterical during the incident, and threatened to jump into the worm hole to try and rescue her daughter.

Ms Gupta's father, Professor Krishnendu Gupta, flew in from Calcutta to see his daughter, who has since undergone two operations on a broken ankle.

"By the grace of God if you look at it she almost got away with it unscathed. We are just very grateful to everybody," he said.

Brian Smith, from South Carolina, managed to film Ms Gupta falling.

"We had just been standing there where she was," he said. "It was definitely scary. Out there on the Aran Islands it's sort of the wild. It was pretty scary - it could have been us."

Roger Sweeney, from Irish Water Safety, is to present Mr McCarthy with an award for the rescue.

"The video shows just how quickly our powerful aquatic environments can change especially in coastal areas subject to Atlantic swells," he said.

"It is terribly important to stay away from the edge and to make sure that children receive constant uninterrupted supervision near water."

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