One man has been left fighting for his life and three others suffered hypothermia after they were rescued from a capsized boat on the River Shannon.
The alarm was raised after 4am after the 16ft craft turned over and was caught in branches and debris near Castleconnell, about 12 miles north of Limerick city.
A 27-year-old man was in a critical condition in University Hospital Limerick where the other men were also being treated.
The open rowing type boat is believed to have become snagged on debris and broken pieces of tree and branches which built up around semi-submerged groynes during winter floods.
The boat is thought to have been pinned against a blocked platform by the force of water and the men were trapped in among the debris.
The Irish Coast Guard in Valentia took a 999 call at 4.17am with the first reports of four people stuck in the water near the boat club in Castleconnell.
John Draper, divisional co-ordinator, said Killaloe Coast Guard Unit, the Rescue 115 helicopter from Shannon, the Limerick Fire Service and the Limerick Rescue boat crew were all tasked to the scene.
The fourth man was taken from the water at 6.55am.
“They were able to extract the casualties but not without difficulty,” Mr Draper said.
“The operation took about three hours and some of the casualties would have been in the water two to three hours.”
The four-man crew on the Killaloe Coast Guard boat worked with the Swift Water rescue experts from Limerick Fire Service to bring ropes from shore to tie to the boat as they tried to protect and rescue the casualties while freeing the debris.
The groynes – fishing platforms normally used by anglers in lower water – were partly submerged because of the weeks of floodwater in the area.
It is understood the critically ill man was in the water for the longest period.