A HERO Limerick boxer risked his own safety on Sunday when he dropped 20 feet into the waters of the River Shannon to save a drowning woman.
Professional fighter and Limerick Treaty Suicide Prevention (LTSP) ambassador, Lee Reeves, had just returned from a training session in Belfast on Sunday when he went out with the local river patrol group.
He told the Limerick Post how he hadn’t intended to be on the river on Sunday night last (March 12), but a last-minute text message encouraged him out.
“I’m a trained member of the (LTSP) team but I don’t get to go out as often as I’d like because I have two training sessions a day. I looked on the group chat and saw there weren’t too many people available, so I went out.”
Lee explained that he had been on patrol with another group member when a call came in around 10pm that a woman had gone into the water.
“We just ran like crazy. When we got there, there were people screaming and the lady was face-down in the water,” he told the Limerick Post.
“We did what we were trained to do and threw the ropes and grab bags into the river. I was sitting on the wall, begging her to grab the rope, grab the bag, but she couldn’t do it.”
For insurance and personal safety reasons, members of Limerick’s river patrol suicide prevention groups are not supposed to enter the waters during interventions, instead providing on-land assistance until emergency services arrive.
However, Lee says quick action was necessary in saving the woman’s life.
“As good as the emergency services are, it was going to take time for them to get there and this lady had just minutes left. I knew time was running out.
“One of the team tied a rope to a bicycle stand and I started to lower myself down. It was good twenty feet and then the rope snapped and I just went straight down into the river.”
Luckily, he landed without injury and was able to reach the woman.
“I grabbed her and grabbed one of the ropes already in the river and just held her face out of the water.
“The fire brigade arrived but they couldn’t get down to us. They just kept shouting to hold on to her. I can tell you, I wasn’t planning to let go.”
When river rescue arrived on the scene, they were able to secure both Lee and the woman onboard, taking them ashore for medical attention.
Both were taken to University Hospital Limerick, where Lee received tetanus shots and treatment for a wound he received to his hand from holding the rope.
The rescue was a poignant one for the young boxer, who lost his mother tragically to suicide in 2015.
Lee says his next fight, scheduled for March 30, will probably now have to be cancelled on account of the injury to his hand, “but that doesn’t matter”.
“There was nothing else to do if she was to be saved, I’m just very glad I was able to get her out and I pray now that she gets whatever help she needs.”
He says he has received messages of thanks from the woman’s family after the incident, but for the group it is all part of a night’s work.
“That’s why we all patrol, in the hope that we can make a difference.”
Anyone who may be experiencing negative thoughts and emotions, who may be feeling at risk or needing to talk, or may be having feelings of suicidal ideation – as well as families and friends bereaved by suicide – can speak to qualified therapists at Pieta 24/7 on 1800 247 247 or by texting help to 51444. The Samaritans helpline is also open on 116 123.