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CLIFF FALL BOY OF 13 HAULED TO SAFETY BY VILLAGERS; MIRACLE ESCAPE AFTER PETER PLUNGES 50ft ONTO ROCKS.

A schoolboy of 13 survived a fall from the famous 500ft Cliffs of Moher thanks to an amazing rescue involving the emergency services, 50 local villagers - and a busful of tourists.

Peter Fitzpatrick plunged 50 feet towards the rocks and crashing waves below as he was walking on a popular tourist trail down the spectacular cliff face with his brother and a pal. He landed on a large boulder a few feet short of the sea and survived.

But it was at this point that an incredible story unfolded.

And it ended with him being hauled up the cliff face by an army of volunteers four-and-a-half-hours later.

The drama took place on a zig-zag path known to walkers and locals as Aill Na Searrach. It is one of Ireland's top tourist attractions, visited by half a million visitors to Co Clare each year.

It was 6.15pm on Tuesday evening, when the three boys had made their way 450ft down the path, when Peter, of Doolin, slipped and tumbled towards the sea.

His brother Stephen, 15, clambered to get to him while their friend PJ Connaughton, 14, went back up for help. PJ flagged down a tour bus and was lucky enough to find a qualified nurse on board, a New Zealander called Grant Chandler.

He descended the cliff with other tourists to attend to the injured boy.

He then nursed Peter as the youngster drifted in and out of consciousness.

The first emergency services on the scene were an ambulance crew from Ennis, who reached the cliff face as darkness fell at 7.15pm.

They quickly realised they needed back-up and sent for the Doolin Coastal Rescue team, who scrambled 14 volunteers to the area by 8.30pm.

They were joined by the Shannon rescue helicopter and the Inishmore Lifeboat.

But high seas and driving wind prevented both the helicopter and the RNLI boat from reaching the stricken boy.

So four climbers from the rescue team climbed down the cliff and hooked Peter up to a stretcher.

Then 50 local villagers joined in the rescue. They used their combined strength to haul the boy the full 500ft up the cliff face.

When Peter reached the top, he was loaded onto the helicopter for the 10-minute flight to Galway.

Last night he was recovering in University College Hospital with a broken collar bone, a broken arm and a suspected damaged spleen.

His condition was described as serious but not life-threatening.

"He is a very lucky young boy," a hospital spokeswoman said.

"You hear stories like this on the BBC's 999 programme. It is amazing he survived such a fall.

"It could have been very nasty and even fatal."

Peter's parents Pat and Lorraine were at their son's bedside last night. Cliff rescue area officer Mattie Shannon said: "He is very lucky.

"Just last Sunday we had to recover the body of a 27-year-old man who fell not far from here. It was pitch black down there and very cold."

Mattie praised the villagers who helped winch Peter to safety.

He said: "The people who helped were tremendous. They gave so fully and generously of their time."

And he also had words of advice for the half million people who visit the cliffs each year.

He said: "You sometimes see people sitting on the rocks 500 feet up with their legs dangling over the side.

"People should be extremely careful when visiting here."

Mattie also praised New Zealander Grant Chandler, saying: "He was marvellous. He stayed with the boy comforting him and helping him."

But last night the tourist being hailed by locals as a hero was nowhere to be found.

He left straight after the dramatic rescue was over - and continued on his trip round Ireland.
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Author:Leslie, Neil
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 25, 1997
Words:626
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