Two paddle boarders who vanished off the west coast of Ireland survived a night of rain, wind and thunder by clinging to a lobster pot buoy.
Two fishermen found the 17-year-old girl and 23-year-old woman on Thursday two miles south of the Aran islands, about 17 miles from Galway Bay, where they were last seen on Wednesday night.
The pair, cousins from Galway city, spent more than 15 hours in or on the water. They are said to be well and are being treated at University Hospital Galway.
The alarm was raised at about 10pm on Wednesday after they failed to return to Furbo beach. Strong winds are believed to have pushed the inflatable paddle boards out to sea.
Coast guard helicopters and vessels searched overnight and hundreds of volunteers on land and sea joined the search after daybreak
Patrick Oliver, a fisherman who is a member of the Galway Lifeboat Station, and his 18-year-old son Morgan found the women clutching a lobster pot marker buoy.
Oliver told RTE he had used wind speed and direction to guess their location. “They travelled there about 20 miles from the beach to the side of Inis Oirr.”
Oliver said he and his son gave the pair oilskin jackets and hats to to regain warmth. “They were definitely in shock but the weather is warm so they were lucky.” The women were not wearing wetsuits but had buoyancy aids and had stayed on the boards.
The women had not panicked and waved their paddles to attract attention, said Oliver. “They had us spotted. They are weak and tired of course but they were sitting up and a little bit of chat out of them. We got them in the boat and we brought them into the island and the chopper landed there. They were fairly shook but they were thankful.”
Barry Heskin of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, told RTE that news of the rescue prompted tears at the lifeboat station.
“It is a truly fantastic result.” He paid tribute to the volunteers. “Once we had so many people on the water we could allocate them to different locations and then we could spread more resources further afield to locations we might not have gotten to till later this afternoon and it might have been so late.”