The mother of one of the two women rescued off the coast of Inis Óirr after 15 hours missing has said they are “forever indebted” to fisherman Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan, who rescued the them.
Helen Feeney went for a walk with her dog on Ferbo beach, Co Galway, while her daughter, Sara and niece, Ellen went paddle boarding.
When the women did not return, Ms Feeney called the coastguard, saying it was “the stuff of nightmares” and they were “living by the second” as they waited for news of where the pair had gone.
The two young women were found alive south of the Aran island of Inis Oírr, having survived over 15 hours in the Atlantic after they were swept across Galway Bay.
The two, aged 17 and 23, were spotted clinging to a lobster pot buoy two miles south-west of Inis Oírr by Galway Mr Oliver and his son shortly before lunchtime.
They were taken on board the seven metre vessel Johnny Ó and brought to Inis Oírr, from where they were flown to University Hospital, Galway.
Barry Heskin of RNLI Galway confirmed the two women were 17 nautical miles from where they were last seen when located.
He said that it was “fantastic news” as weather conditions had been very bad with “rain, thunder, high winds” last night, and he was sure the two women would have been “very scared”.
“We are jumping around here in the lifeboat station – it is such good news,” he said.
RNLI Galway operations manager Mike Swan said he had been informed the women had been “talking away” on the deck of the fishing vessel and were in good spirits after their overnight ordeal.
Their rescue was confirmed just before lunchtime after an extensive overnight air and sea search.
The two women had left Furbo beach after 8pm on Wednesday, and the alarm was raised just after 10pm when they had failed to return to shore.
They were wearing buoyancy aids, but not wetsuits. Sea conditions were calm but with an offshore north-westerly breeze.
The RNLI Aran island and Galway lifeboats, the Irish Coast Guard’s Shannon and Sligo-based helicopters and Doolin and Costello Coast Guards searched throughout the night.
Mr Swan said that the overnight search had focused on the inner Galway bay area and had extended west to Black Head.
Marine Institute ocean sciences staff also worked on tide and current modelling to assist the search crews.
The institute based in Oranmore had also launched its rigid inflatable to assist the sea search, along with a number of fishing vessels, local and visiting angling and leisure craft.
Residents living close to the coast from Barna west to Spiddal had searched the shoreline near their homes, and also from Kinvara west to Newquay.