Eyewitness saw canoe drama unfold on Foyle

Ian Faulkner, who watched the canoe drama unfold on his telescope. Photo: Diane Faulkner
Ian Faulkner, who watched the canoe drama unfold on his telescope. Photo: Diane Faulkner

Sometimes all you need to save a life is a great view, a telescope and a telephone.

That’s exactly what happened on Saturday when Magheramason man Ian Faulkner was doing a bit of river watching, when the YMCA canoe race came into view.

Ian Faulkner, who watched the canoe drama unfold on his telescope. Photo: Diane Faulkner

Ian Faulkner, who watched the canoe drama unfold on his telescope. Photo: Diane Faulkner

“The river was extremely rough and stormy and at about 1.45pm as I looked out the window, I thought I could see a boat on the river,” he said.

“So I looked through my telescope and saw one boat going through the roughest part; I could see them row across the current and I said to my wife, Diane, that I thought the boat would capsize, but it did not.

“Two or three minutes later I saw a second crew and I turned away for a second, and when I looked back I could see people in the water.

“Diane telephoned 999 and spoke to the police at Maydown and raised the alarm. The police telephoned back and as I looked through the telescope I was able to relay back to Diane what was happening and she was able to relay it to the police.

The scene at Prehen Boathouse this afternoon where Foyle Search and Rescue are working with the Coastguard and other agencies in a major incident.

The scene at Prehen Boathouse this afternoon where Foyle Search and Rescue are working with the Coastguard and other agencies in a major incident.

“The police said we were the only ones who telephoned in about the crisis.

“Our home close to the river and this all happened only two fields away. The next thing we saw the Coast Guard helicopter. There were people in the water, a few of them for a good half hour. They must have been frozen.

“From the time of the 999 call to them getting there must have been a good 15 minutes,” he said.

“At the start of the crisis the first canoe seemed to go back to try and help. It looked like they had pulled onto the shore on the Donegal side. I saw the other canoe float down the river with people attached to it and it looked like there were two people in the water on their own.

“They looked to be struggling against the current and from capsizing until they floated down to the other crew must have been 10 minutes. The other crew turned back to help them. Then the search and rescue helicopter arrived and the Foyle Search and Rescue jet skiers and boat came up the river,” Mr Faulkner said.