‘She’s my best mate... I don’t feel like a hero’

Sorcha O'Brien
Sorcha O'Brien

A 22-YEAR-OLD lifesaver told the Herald she thought she had lost her friend for good when she noticed her floating lifeless near the pier.

Sorcha O’Brien had been swimming among the struts of the pier with her friend Mary-Christina Heaney on a warm bank holiday Friday evening.

Ms O’Brien, of North Road, Eastbourne, thought her friend was messing about when she started to zig-zag across the water just metres from the shoreline.

But when Ms Heaney, a strong swimmer, slumped forward into the sea, her arms hanging loose and hair spreading out into the water it was clear all was not well.

Ms O’Brien said, “I thought she was just joking around because we were just having a laugh in the water, until I got to her and she was just floating with her arms out and head down in the water. I thought she was dead. Her eyes were glazed and she was foaming at the mouth.”

Ms O’Brien managed to haul her friend onto the beach where onlookers rushed to help her.

Ms Heaney was whisked off to Eastbourne DGH by an ambulance crew at before 7pm where she spent a week in an induced coma in the intensive therapy unit.

The mother-of-one was woken up last Friday (April 29) and was discharged from the DGH on Monday. “As far as I’m concerned now she’s my best mate and she’s not getting away from me.

“I don’t feel like a hero. I feel sort of guilty because I didn’t notice her more quickly,” said Ms O’Brien.

Ms Heaney’s father William Mongan complained there should have been lifeguards on duty at the time. Although both Brighton and Hove City Council and Bournemouth Borough Council said they had deployed lifeguards especially for the Easter Bank Holiday, Eastbourne Borough Council said lifeguards only started patrolling the beaches last Saturday (May 1).