Belfast Telegraph

Hero who rescued woman from car in Fermanagh lough ‘ignored’ - police claim the credit

Alistair McCammon
Alistair McCammon
Muckross Bay, where the car entered the water
The car
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The man who risked his life to free a woman from her car after it plunged into a Fermanagh lake says he has been left haunted by her eyes staring at him as he fought to rescue her.

While the PSNI praised three officers for their "heroic efforts" to save the woman, it can be revealed that Alistair McCammon was the man who risked his life to free her from her vehicle.

The 45-year-old from Armagh had been returning by boat with his family from nearby Lusty Beg Island when they came across the incident on Saturday night.

Mr McCammon said he repeatedly dived underwater in his efforts to save the woman after arriving at the scene.

"We saw the flashing lights on the shore as we headed over towards the jetty at Muckross Pier," he said.

"There was a policeman waving at us from the top of their car and we quickly understood there was a vehicle in the water and that someone was possibly still inside.

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Muckross Bay, where the car entered the water

"It was some 30-40 feet out from the shore, drifting away and sinking, and I suppose instinct kicked in.

"I stripped off and jumped in. I'd like to think someone would do the same for me in that situation.

"It was dark and difficult to see. I went down three or four times before I could see that the side windows of the car were down.

"There was someone in there and I'm not sure if she tried to pull at me or not.

"I couldn't tell if there was a seatbelt on and had to check.

"It wasn't, and I was able to see that her head was in an air pocket.

"I managed to push her head down before being able to pull her up and out.

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The car

"I've no idea how long it all took, everything was happening so fast, but we managed to get her onto a board on the boat where an officer started CPR.

"Things didn't look good and she'd definitely been down there a long time.

"I've been thinking about it all day. I can still see her eyes staring at me underwater.

"I can still see her lying there on the boat."

Mr McCammon said that by the time he got to shore an ambulance had arrived and the woman was rushed to hospital.

"I tried to ask how the lady was but still no one has been able to tell me anything," he said.

His wife Janet, who witnessed the incident, said he was left to look after himself after the heroic rescue.

"We saw the lights of the police car reflecting in the water and thought things didn't look quite right," she said. "There were a couple of police officers standing around and they didn't look like they knew what to do. They were waving at us.

"I saw my husband take his jeans off and I scolded him to wait, but he jumped in.

"I just tried to keep the kids out of the way and shield them from what was going on.

"But when they got to shore Alistair was left standing there freezing, soaked, in his underpants.

"No one asked him if he was okay. We just went back to the caravan to get him dry and warm.

"It's was annoying to see the reports of the incident on Sunday with no mention of what he did."

The three officers involved were treated in hospital for shock.

PSNI Inspector John Gordon said: "At around 10.25pm on Saturday, June 15 we received a report that a car may have entered the water at Muckross Pier on the Boa Island Road in Kesh.

"A nearby police patrol responded and the two officers on board spotted the vehicle in the water.

"Both immediately entered the lake and managed to free the woman from the sinking car.

"A third police officer who had arrived on scene also entered the water to ensure no one else was inside the vehicle.

"I commend the brave actions of the police officers involved and my thoughts and prayers are with the female and her family this morning."

Later yesterday PSNI district commander Derek Beatty offered his "sincere thanks" to all those involved in the rescue.

"To the members of the community who phoned police, the brave officers who arrived quickly on the scene, removed their kit and dived into the water to search for the casualty, members of the community who also entered the water, the community members in the speedboat who also helped, our colleagues in the Ambulance Service, the PSNI duty inspector who also arrived on scene and entered the water to help search for anyone else who may have been in the vehicle, and our colleagues in the South West Acute Hospital Emergency Department who save lives every day," he said.

"And finally our thoughts are with the casualty, their family and friends at this terrible time."

Among those praising police for their efforts was DUP leader Arlene Foster, who said: "The thoughts of everyone in Kesh and across Fermanagh will be with the woman involved and her family.

"Muckross is a well-known, quiet beauty spot and yet was the scene of such an awful incident.

"The police and the emergency services are to be commended for their swift actions."

Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton said: "Wishing a full recovery to the occupant rescued from the submerged car at Muckross Pier, Kesh, and well done to the PSNI and rescue services for their courageous efforts."

The woman in the vehicle, who is believed to be in her 50s, was described as being in a critical condition in hospital last night.

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