A dramatic sea cave tragedy in Belderrig will feature in the first episode of a six-part RTÉ series Rescue which airs on Sunday April 5 at 7.30pm on RTÉ One.
From an accident on the cold reaches of Carrauntoohil Mountain in Co Kerry, to the cave tragedy in Belderrig, the tales of both rescuers and those they save are brought vividly to life.
At the core of most Irish rescues is a handful of dedicated, often voluntary, organisations like the coast guard, RNLI, mountain rescue teams, and fire services. Many of the men and women who help in Irish rescues are unsung heroes.
Other stories that feature in Rescue include the seven Dublin men who were seconds from drowning; the Cappoquin couple whose children were trapped in a burning house; the students lost in a pothole cave in County Clare; and the heroic Air Corps helicopter crew who risked their lives to save others.
Belderrig cave rescue
On October 26 1997 in Co Mayo, Tony Murphy, his wife Carmel, and their 11-year-old daughter Emma, went on a boat trip with their German neighbour Will Von Below. The currach was hit by a dramatic freak wave and capsized. Will Von Below was tragically killed as the Murphy family was washed into a 1,000 ft sea cave. Hours went by before the survivors were finally spotted by local fishermen. It was the beginning of one of Ireland’s most arduous rescue operations.
The rescue itself would last 24 hours, involve more than 11 agencies and some 60 people. An RTÉ camera man filmed the heroic operation. Most of the footage has never been seen before. The Irish Coast Guard, Grainne Uaile Sub Aqua Club, the Garda Water Unit, and the RNLI were just some of the agencies involved. Michael Heffernan, a member of the local diving club, sadly lost his life in the rescue effort.
For the first time Tony Murphy and the men who saved his family tell of the dramatic Belderrig rescue — a rescue that would change lives and a community forever.