American tourist meets Irishman who saved his life 56 years ago

Canal Bank in Corbally (photo Limerick Civic Trust)

An American man has had an incredible reunion with the Irish hero who save his life 56 years ago.

Disaster struck for Brooklyn native Michael Downes in 1963 when he visited his Irish relatives in Limerick in 1963.

He fell into the Canal Bank in Corbally and almost drowned. Thankfully, 17-year-old Mícheál Mulcahy was close to the scene and heard some children screaming for help.

Canal Bank in Corbally (photo Limerick Civic Trust)

The Garryowen teenager risked his own life as he leapt into the canal to save the seven-year-old American child.

The two have never seen each other since as the American had been taken away to recover by the time Mulcahy managed to drag himself out of the canal.

But now they have been reunited as Downes visited Mulcahy to thank him.

When they met at Mulcahy’s home in Parteen, Downes said: “Thank you. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here and my kids wouldn’t be here…Unbelievable.

“It took me fifty-six years to come back and say thank you. You are a true hero.”

The Irishman joked: “I’m glad you came back. You haven’t changed a bit.”

Both have vivid memories of the incident that has forever linked them, and they discussed how they felt about the experience.

Downes told the Irish Independent: “I remember it like it was yesterday. I can still see the bottom of the canal, and the chain hanging out of the wall of the canal, and the garbage down there.

“I got real calm and I thought – that was it – and then all of a sudden, next thing I know, somehow, I’m coming out of the water…somebody came for me.”

Mulcahy added: “No one went in. They were screaming to get a rope. There was no sign of you.

“And going down and looking for you, and the next thing I spot you down on the floor. You were so close to being dead. Once I lifted you off the ground, I got my shoulders underneath you and up and screaming for a rope.

“I never saw you anymore. I was left inside (the canal). and everyone took this young lad and left me there. I’ll never forget it.”

Downes’ wife Linda also thanked Mulcahy, saying if it hadn’t been for him, none of her four sons with Downes would have been born.

She said: “Michael has been wanting to thank him since it happened. He’s my soul mate, and if he had died, I would never have met him and we would never have our boys. I’m gonna start crying again.

“It means a lot to both of us, and I’m so glad that Mícheál was still here on earth, to thank him. I’m just overwhelmed.”

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