A young teacher from Co Donegal has been honoured for her bravery in saving a father and his three young daughters from drowning off the coast of Portsalon.

Jane Friel (22) from Castlefinn was on a day out when the panic ensued.

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 their dad.

Jane swam out to reach the youngest girl and managed to bring her and another girl back to safety.

As Jane bravely went back to rescue the others, they managed to copy her brave actions and made it to shore.

The trainee teacher was today awarded a bronze medal for bravery by Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl at the National Bravery Awards.

The Bravery awards were set up in 1947 to recognise those who risked their lives to save others.

Jane was among 25 people honoured for 17 acts of bravery.

At the time of her rescue, the trainee teacher played down her role.

She told Donegal Daily she had been a keen swimmer since she was aged seven and was a qualified lifeguard.

“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.”

Awarding Jane her bronze medal for bravery, the organisers spoke of the day Jane came to the rescue of the lucky family.

“On the afternoon of 28 July 2020, a woman in distress ran up to some people looking for a lifeguard as her family were being swept out to sea off Portsalon Beach, Co Donegal. Jane Friel overheard this and noticing that there were no lifeguards in that area ran towards the water to help. She was given a life ring by a person on the beach and she ran into the water still wearing her jeans and swam out to sea.

“Initially, she couldn’t see them as they were quite far out but eventually reached them. She found a father and his three daughters, ranging in age she thought between eight and 13, in a distressed state trying to stay afloat on two body boards in very deep water. As she approached them, she asked them to try and remain calm.

“Jane then asked what appeared to be the youngest child to take hold of the life ring and told those remaining that she would be back to get them. Jane asked the young girl to kick as hard as she could and managed to get her close enough to shore. This allowed someone on the shore to wade into the water and bring her ashore.

“Jane then returned to the three remaining people. Jane got another one of the girls to come towards her with her body board asking her to also kick as hard as she could, and she would get her to safety. The girl did this and Jane got her to the shore safely. Jane then turned to go back for the other two but at this stage the father and daughter had copied what Jane was doing and they managed to get themselves safely to shore.

“For her actions Jane Friel is awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.”

There were a number of other Donegal recipients of bravery awards and we will feature them later today.