‘What an amazing girl and she completely saved my life’
With the sun shining over the May Bank Holiday weekend, 11 year old Ella-Rose Small from Hillsborough set off to Donegal with her grandmother Aundrea and her partner Pat Rice.
What should have been a fun family weekend away quickly turned into a nightmare, however, when Pat and Ella-Rose faced the ferocious might of the open sea.
Ella-Rose was enjoying some time at West Coast beauty spot Silver Strand beach and the calm water looked inviting so she decided to go for a swim with Pat.
“Both of them are very strong swimmers and spend a lot of time in the open water,” explained Ella-Rose’s mum Roxanne.
“The water was waist high and all calm.”
But the pair soon discovered that looks can be deceiving when it comes to the open sea and the calm, settled water suddenly changed to life-threatening waves.
“The next moment, out of nowhere, a massive crashing wave started to approach,” continued Roxanne.
“Another group of young girls were in the water at the same time.
“Their fully clothed Mum came running into the water shouting at them to get out.
“Pat and Ella-Rose were slightly further back and didn’t know what was going on.
“The big wave hit them both and knocked them right under the water.
“When Ella-Rose got her footing back, the force of the wave had knocked her pony tail out and her hair was everywhere.
“It was then that she noticed she couldn’t see Pat anymore.
“He had been taken completely under the water and hadn’t re-emerged.”
Stranded in the North Atlantic Ocean, unable to see her grandmother’s partner Pat, who had vanished in the waves whilst the pair were out for a swim, young Downshire Primary School pupil Ella-Rose somehow managed to remain calm and swam with all her strength back to the shore to raise the alarm.
“Ella-Rose looked for him and then fought her way in to get help,” continued her mum Roxanne.
“The big crashing waves continued and they were caught in a riptide. Ella-Rose fought her hardest and made it back to the beach.
“She raised the alarm that Pat was gone and at that point three strangers started a rescue mission. They eventually were able to make it to Pat with life aids and dragged him in.
“When they got him to the tide, he was barely conscious. The air ambulance arrived shortly after and landed on the beach. They worked on Pat to stabilise him before transferring him to Sligo Hospital, with water in his lungs and hyperthermia. He was thankfully cleared and discharged the next day.”
Everyone was amazed at how calm and collected Ella-Rose managed to remain throughout the terrifying ordeal. “We are without a doubt that if she hadn’t had the strength to pull herself out of the tides and raise the alarm, we could have lost them both to the sea,” continued Roxanne.
“Even though the two of them are strong swimmers with lots of experience in the ocean, it really is a stark reminder that you don’t have to be out of your depth to get into trouble.”
Roxanne admitted that Ella-Rose was really shaken up and frightened after what happened but, she continued; “When something like this happens, it puts everything into perspective; life is precious, every day is a blessing. I can’t even bare to consider what the other outcome would have been for both for them.
“I am exceptionally proud of her. She is such a kind, caring girl with a great sense of humour. She is also a great big sister to her little sister Annabelle and little brother Lewis. She is only 11 years old and every day she makes our world a better place.”
Pat has nothing but praise for the young girl that saved his life. “The only way I can describe Ella-Rose Small is as a rockstar. She quickly realised that we were in danger after the first wave hit us and that I was being taken out by the rip tide.
“She calmly started to swim as hard as she could against the current to get herself to safety and raise the alarm.
“Ella-Rose alerted her Nana that I was stuck under the water and that I needed help. What an amazing girl and she completely saved my life.
“Cool, calm, strong and selfless are just some of the attributes that Ella-Rose has in abundance. In all the commotion on the beach she knew that everything wasn’t right and dealt with it. What an amazing girl.”