herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

'It's lucky we didn't die' - Irish couple in parasailing horror

Zoe O’Dwyer Kelly and Noel Mounsey in hospital in Sydney
Zoe O’Dwyer Kelly and Noel Mounsey in hospital in Sydney

A young Irish woman has said she and her boyfriend are "lucky to be alive" after a parasailing accident in Australia left them seriously injured.

Noel Mounsey (23) was hailed a hero after keeping unconscious Zoe O'Dwyer Kelly (20) afloat in the sea, despite having injuries to his wrist, neck and shoulder.

Zoe, from Rathmore, Co Kerry, and Noel, from Co Clare, have been living in Sydney for more than two years.

On November 6, the couple went parasailing to celebrate their first anniversary.

"I'll never forget that date due to it being our anniversary and because it changed our lives for ever," Zoe told the Herald.

"I wanted to book a fun activity for us, but little did I know we both could have died.

"That morning we thought it might have been cancelled because we had received a message from the parasailing company to say that due to strong winds they had cancelled the first two morning trips out, but our session was at 12 and they took us out.

"I was a little nervous because the water seemed rough and the boat was swaying from side to side. I trusted our instructor would keep us safe."

Zoe said they were in the air for less than two minutes when a gust of wind snapped the rope that attached them to the boat.

"The parasail lost control and our heads collided. The last thing I remember before the impact was Noel telling me to get ready to hit the water."

Zoe said she was going in and out of consciousness.

"I can remember ropes from the parasail were wrapped around our legs and neck," she said.

"I saw Noel's face which was covered in blood and screamed, at which point he said to me, 'Don't worry about my face, it's your face'.

"I couldn't do or say anything with the blood streaming down my face."

When they hit the water after falling 10 metres, Zoe was unconscious and Noel had to keep her head out of the water.

"Noel had a fractured shoulder and wrist, so for him to keep me above water for so long in pain and shock was amazing," she said.

"Any longer and I hate to think what might have happ-ened."

A professional diving team were in the area at the time and helped take the couple to safety.

They were taken to St Vincent's Hospital where they were treated for serious injuries.

"The outcome of my injuries is a titanium plate in my head and over 37 stitches in my face," said Zoe.

Scars

"I'm 20 years of age and it's never easy to find out you're going to have scars on your face - but scars that need over 37 stitches?"

"Noel had nine stitches over his left eye along with a fractured shoulder and wrist.

"He remembers every second of that day - the rope snapping, hitting the water and the blood covering all around us and what felt like for him a lifetime before any one managed to come to our rescue."

Zoe wants to find out how the rope could have snapped, as she believes they could have died.

She and Noel intend to stay in Australia.

"We love living out here and our life is out here," said Zoe.

She praised her mum Mary and Noel's mum Rose Mary for dropping everything and flying to Australia to be by their sides.

"We'll find out as the days go on just how much the accident has affected us," said Zoe.

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