Belfast Telegraph

Officer who rescued swimmer off Antrim coast hailed a hero

'The PSNI received a call from the man's friend who stayed on the phone until officers arrived at the scene' (stock photo)
'The PSNI received a call from the man's friend who stayed on the phone until officers arrived at the scene' (stock photo)

By Christopher Leebody

A PSNI officer has been hailed a hero after saving a swimmer who got into difficulty off the Co Antrim coast.

It happened on Tuesday near Dunluce Castle after the man had been cliff diving.

The PSNI received a call from the man's friend who stayed on the phone until officers arrived at the scene.

Sergeant Gareth Lavery was one of the first to arrive at around 5.45pm.

Despite the dangerous conditions, his training as a beach lifeguard kicked into action.

A member of the PSNI for five years, he had also been an RNLI senior beach lifeguard since he was 18.

He said the swimmer was "about 10 to 15 metres out to sea".

"When I arrived at the scene with my colleagues, my instincts as a trained beach lifeguard immediately kicked in," he said.

"I could see clearly that the young man was in distress and floundering in the strong currents.

"I knew the water was deep and the rocks are high so it would have been difficult to bring him ashore. I made the decision with my skills to go into the water."

Mr Lavery added: "He wasn't a strong swimmer. He was conscious but swallowed a lot of water and couldn't talk.

"We were so far out to sea it was not possible or safe to try to bring him back to shore, which was quite a distance away. I kept him afloat until my colleagues from RNLI arrived and got us both on board their craft.

"When we were brought to shore, the young man was met by the NI Ambulance Service and taken to hospital."

The man is believed to have suffered shock due to the cold water and has since been discharged from hospital.

Mr Lavery received a check-up at the scene and returned home.

He said: "With the summer holidays coming up and the hint of long summer days, I would ask everyone to treat our coastline and waters with caution.

"I would like to take this opportunity to wish this young man a speedy recovery and to thank my colleagues in RNLI and NIAS. This was a great example of collaborative working at its best."

PSNI Chief Inspector Ian Magee said he was "extremely proud" of Sergeant Lavery's actions. "His selfless actions are indicative of the calibre of officer we have serving in our district," he said.

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