Belfast Telegraph

Mother pays tribute after boy is saved from death in Strabane mud pit

By Donna Deeney

The mother of a boy who narrowly escaped death after getting trapped in sinking sand wept as she told how she came close to losing her son.

Some 20 firefighters were needed to rescue Daryl Finlay (14) from the quick sand which was slowly sucking him down while his family and neighbours desperately tried to keep him calm.

The sandpit near a quarry is a mixture of mud, sand and water.

Daryl was with his cousin Nikita (13) in the fields near their homes on the Killycurry Road near Strabane on Tuesday where they had been watching horses.

They were returning home when the ground beneath them opened up. He was treated in hospital for hypothermia, but is still too shocked to speak about his ordeal.

His mother Linda and father Richard spoke exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph to raise awareness that these deadly pits do actually exist.

Linda struggled to hold back tears at the thought at the thought of what could have been without the huge effort by the Fire Service and passers-by.

She said: “All day today I got flashes of what could have happened to Daryl. He is still badly traumatised.

“In fact I think it hasn't actually hit home how near he was to sinking completely into the sand.

“Nikita managed to get out but Daryl couldn't and he kept sinking. He said after he could feel the sand filling up the pockets of his jeans and dragging him down and down.

“Nikita got through on the phone to our house and my husband Richard had left straight away but it was a bit later by the time I reached them.

“I will never get over the sight that I saw, Richard and the two men holding on to the rope that was tied around Daryl keeping him from disappearing into the sand.

“The firemen said it was important to keep Daryl calm and not let him struggle too much until they got there and amazingly he was staying calm.

“I will never, ever be able to thank the firemen and the two men who were passing by enough for everything they did.”

Fire Service District Commander Barry McDowell said there was a “real and significant” risk to the lives of the firemen but specialist training led to the right outcome for everyone.

He explained: “The sinking sand was down a steep bank and in the middle of trees, and the conditions were very dark and treacherous for fire fighters to work in.

“The boy was in a state of shock but he was still conscious and able to talk to us, and we carried out the rescue using some improvised firefighting techniques using short extension ladders, lines and some new equipment we have, an inflatable sledge.”

He added that they were able to deal with the situation quickly as they had just returned from fighting a gorse fire. But he stressed: “There could very easily have been a delay reaching this young boy if we had to divert fire appliances from elsewhere because we were dealing with gorse fires.”

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