Hero mum dives into river to save life of little girl (3)
A woman in her 30s has been hailed a hero for fearlessly diving into a river to save a child who had slipped and fallen into the water.
The rescuer, Maria Foley from Cobh, Co Cork, was the focus of glowing tributes from Cork fire brigade, gardai and Irish Water Safety for the remarkable courage she displayed in saving the three-year-old girl from the River Lee at Cork city centre quays.
Ms Foley - who had to be winched to safety from the river with the child - shrugged off the tributes of onlookers at St Patrick's Quay.
"Anyone would have done the same," she told one rescue volunteer. "All that matters is that the child is OK."
Her son Kyle publicly hailed his mother for being a hero. "So happy the child is safe mam. You are a hero for doing this," he posted on social media. "Love you - so happy you are okay. Mam saved a beautiful child's life by jumping into the river."
The little girl was walking with an au pair at noon in Cork city centre yesterday when she suddenly ran forward to look at fish swimming in the River Lee.
However, before the au pair could grab her, the child slipped on a wet surface and skidded beneath safety railings and into the river. The incident occurred near the Brian Boru Bridge with the nearby streets packed with shoppers, commuters and holiday makers.
Ms Foley, who was walking nearby, saw what happened and immediately jumped into the water to rescue the child.
She had to jump more than 10 feet into the water below to reach the little girl. The au pair was also about to jump into the water but was urged by other pedestrians to remain onshore to assist with the rescue.
The brave woman grabbed the child in the water and managed to get to the quay wall which she used as a support to keep both afloat until the emergency services arrived.
She held the child over her head with one hand while holding onto the quay wall with her other hand.
Cork fire brigade third officer Victor Shine said the woman's actions required quick-thinking and remarkable stamina.
"Maria displayed incredible heroism by going into the water to rescue this child. Her actions and her courage undoubtedly saved this little girl's life," he said.
A male pedestrian rang the emergency services and stayed on the quay wall directly above the stranded pair to offer encouragement.
Because there was no ladder access and he was afraid to get Ms Foley to move from safety at the quay wall, he could not drag them to safety.
Cork fire brigade units and gardai were at the scene three minutes later. Ms Foley and the child were both removed from the river having spent less than five minutes in the water.
Medical treatment was given at the scene to both the woman and little girl. Both avoided serious injury in the incident.
However, as a precautionary measure they were taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital for medical assessment. The child was deeply shocked. Both were discharged yesterday evening. Locals have now vowed to nominate Ms Foley for a water safety award to honour her courage.