Report by Sean Friel

A young Donegal woman has been hailed a hero after helping to save a family from drowning during a beach emergency.

Jane Friel (21) from Castlefinn was on a day out at Portsalon beach on Tuesday afternoon when the panic ensued.

Jane Friel (21) from Castlefinn

A family of four had been swimming at the beach when they were pulled out by the tide and couldn’t get back into shore.

Jane, a trained lifeguard, rushed out with a life ring to help the three young girls and a man. Jane swam out to reach the youngest girl and managed to bring her and another girl back to safety.

In her own words, Jane looked back on the dramatic events: “I was out for the day with my cousin when a woman came up to a group of people near us telling them her family had been pulled out by the tide and couldn’t get back into shore.”

“I could see there was 3 young girls and a man struggling to make their way back. Instinct kicked in and I took my jacket and sunglasses off and began swimming out.

“I used the life ring that was available on the beach to get ahold of the youngest girl and bring her in. The second girl had a boogie board which she was able to use to swim alongside me,” Ms. Friel explains.

“Fortunately by that stage the father had been able to get the grips with the current and bring the other girl in.”

Portsalon Beach

The experience was overwhelming for all involved and the unknown family from Northern Ireland left shortly after.

Ms. Friel has been a keen swimmer since the age of seven and is a trained lifeguard.

“I got the qualification 2 years ago and was due to update it this year before the COVID-19 outbreak,” she said.

“It’s a really useful qualification to have. I had applied for a few life guard jobs but got turned down.”

The ever-humble 3rd year Primary Teaching student of Marino Institute of Education has been reticent about her heroics but does have an important message for those over this Bank Holiday weekend:

“I would consider myself a very strong swimmer and I really struggled swimming against the current. Usually you don’t realise that you’re in bother until it’s too late.

“If you do decide to go to the beach, you have to extremely careful. I don’t think I could emphasise that enough.”