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*Crowds in Lahinch on Sunday. 

A group of surfers were responsible for saving dozens of lives at a chaotic Lahinch on Sunday.

Scenes at Lahinch on Sunday saw thousands of visitors visit the beach with no lifeguards on duty when it was reported that two toddlers went missing, a heart attack scare occurred and over twenty rescues from the water were carried out by volunteer lifeguards and surf instructors.

Increased lifeguard service is be introduced to Clare’s busier beaches from this weekend while full-time cover will not be introduced until the end of the month. Weekend service of lifeguards begin at beaches across the county this weekend as originally scheduled with a full-time service to commence from Monday June 28th.

A spokesperson for Clare County Council has confirmed that lifeguard services will be increased particularly at busier beaches from the weekend “in light of the level of activity” observed. Where available, lifeguards will also be on duty on weekdays.

Local surfers have been hailed for their bravery over the weekend in carrying out life-saving rescues on members of the public that got into difficulty. The group of men included Mike Paige, Aaron McGettigan, Ollie O’Flaherty, Ben Bennett, Ollie Welsh, Stephen Hanna, Liam Posener and Bradley Skidmore. Richard Brangwyn spent over four hours in the water and carried out numerous rescues and assists while James Monohan was responsible for two serious rescues.

Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) said of their efforts, “they put their lives at risk to save over 40 people” and added that the men “could not leave the beach because they were afraid people would die”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, one of the men involved, Ben Bennett of Ben’s Surf Clinic recalled that several issues came to the fore on Sunday. “The size of the crowd, the surf conditions and the fact that there wasn’t much supervision added to the chaos, it was as busy as I’ve ever seen it, I was trying to think of a day when I saw so many people on the beach and I honestly can’t think of one”.

An approximate 15 rescues and more than 20 assists were carried out by the volunteers and surf instructors on Sunday who have been volunteering in this capacity for the past three years. “An assist is either talking someone out of a place where they are not safe or giving them a gentle hand in or a pull in, rescues are more serious where you’re hauling someone in and they can’t do it themselves so you are really helping them,” Ben explained.

Over a thousand people were at Lahinch on Sunday. “The beach was jammed, my own children were down there but left by lunchtime because it was too busy. There was thousands of people on the beach and definitely hundreds in the water, it was very busy,” the Kildare native noted.

A review of the “traditional models” used by local authorities for determining the bathing season is needed to provide better resources, Ben felt and suggested lifeguard cover be introduced at weekends in May and September. “The other thing we’ve heard is that when the weather is sunny there is more people there, of course that is the case but there are lots of people in the water when the weather is not sunny, we have wetsuits now, people get in the water a lot, I just don’t mean surfers, I mean children playing and bodyboarding”.

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