A man trapped in a sea cave on Saturday night in north Mayo is still being medically assessed after being rescued by emergency services yesterday afternoon.

The 40-year-old Polish man, who lives in Castlebar, spent almost 22 hours on a ledge in the cave at Downpatrick Head after being swept into the sea cave during high tide on Saturday evening.

A multi-agency rescue effort successfully rescued the man at about 4pm yesterday evening.

It was a “meitheal” of rescue workers that brought the man, who has not been named, to safety.

As the coastguard helicopter from Sligo lifted off from Downpatrick Head at about 4pm yesterday evening the packed car park of people gathered clapped and cheered for the result, and for the people who put their own lives at risk to help others. The man that had been trapped, was then in the helicopter heading to Sligo University Hospital. He was seen walking with assistance up the cliff from the cave and into the helicopter and the media gathered were told he was in good spirits and appeared to be in reasonable form after such an ordeal, 22 hours stranded on a ledge, high up in a large sea cave. 

The extensive rescue operation that had got underway at 6pm on Saturday evening  included the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation, the Coast Guard Units from Killala/Ballyglass/Killybegs/Achill, the Ballyglass RNLI Lifeboat, National Ambulance Service, Civil Defence, County Fire Service and the Gardai, led by Supt Gabriel Moran, and the Garda Water Unit.  

Local fishing boats also assisted and the local community provided tea/ coffee, sandwiches and cakes throughout the ordeal to rescue workers and to the group of about 15 people who were friends/ relatives of the man that was trapped and waited anxiously for news of their friend/ loved one.

Garda Superintendent Gabriel Moran explained at the rescue scene yesterday morning that two people had got into difficulties when they were swept off a ledge by a wave surge on Saturday evening. The trapped man, had been exploring the cave with a female companion when they became trapped by a rising tide.  A number of kayakers came to the assistance of the female and brought her to safety but they could not reach the man and he managed to get onto a ledge in the cave where he had remained overnight.

Agatha Hurst PRO of Ballyglass RNLI Lifeboat spoke to Midwest News about how a five member crew of the Ballyglass Lifeboat was able to maintain contact with the trapped man overnight and throughout the day yesterday and he remained responsive throughout. Shesaid that the trapped man knew there were people there ready to rescue him, as soon as the waters would allow that to happen safely.

Yesterday was a pleasant day, weather-wise,  on land at Downpatrick Head, however the waters below are more complicated and there’s no doubts the tidal waves and swells make any activity in and around the water potentially dangerous and great caution is needed as conditions change quickly and dramatically in the ocean.

In conclusion, well done to all the rescue workers, the professionals and the volunteers, and to the people in the Downpatrick Head community and further afield who react and provide refreshments and comfort to people in distress, waiting and praying for the safe return of a friend/ relative in difficulty, and needing assistance.


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