Swimmer in ‘horrific’ moment saw his friend drowning during Christmas Day oar

One swimmer who was rescued after struggling to swim on Christmas Day spoke of the terrifying moment he realized his friend was drowning.

On Christmas Day, members of the Bangor RNLI, along with other members of the emergency services, are tasked with helping two men after they get into trouble off Helen’s Bay in Down, Belfast Live Report.

After seeing criticism of the pair online, one of those involved, Shane Malcolm from Belfast’s Market District, spoke out about their traumatic experience trying to set the record straight.

Cheney, 53, and his friend Tony, were rescued after they struggled off Gray Point Fort at about 11 a.m. last Saturday during strong winds and high seas.

The Coast Guard later praised the pair for wearing the appropriate set, which made it easier for them to spot them.

Cheney told Belfast Live: «We used to go to Helen’s Bay twice a week to swim but we’d never had anything like this before.

“When we arrived on Christmas Day, we immediately knew we weren’t going to go too deep in swimming due to the weather conditions.

«We’d wear hats, gloves, goggles and use floats. We don’t usually get away much anyway, but this was a rude wake.

“All we wanted to do was go to the water on Christmas Day and feel cool because the endorphins that release in relation to your mental health are great.

«We only got to the waist because the waves were coming towards us and kicking us off our feet,» Sheeny explained. «Tony got out about 15 feet but he drifted out and couldn’t get back up again.»

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“I was already out of the water and I was standing and I was drying up on the beach when three young boys came and said my friend was in trouble.

«I went back to try to get him back because I’m a better swimmer than him but halfway through I had a hard time.

«The waves were so big they kept coming and going. I couldn’t see him and it was a terrible feeling knowing I wouldn’t make it.

“I knew that if I kept going, I would drown too, so I knew I had to move through the rocks. I lay on my back and the waves pushed me toward the rocks.

Bangor RNLI crew

Then the three children took care of me and pulled me along with another fella who took off his coat and wrapped it around me.

«At this point I still couldn’t see Tony but then the kids shouted his arms were moving. I was safe at the water’s edge but I was watching my friend drown.»

Sheeny added, «It might have been stupid for me to go into the water after him, but the first thing you do is you want to protect your friend who’s in trouble.

«If I hadn’t gone inside, I would have kicked myself but you’re on autopilot and not thinking about the danger at all.»

Tony was rescued and taken by boat to Bangor, where he was taken to Ulster Hospital in Donald by air ambulance.

Cheney was transported to the same hospital by road and both men were discharged around 4 p.m. on the same day.

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«Tony was revived and then put into a water solution,» Shane said.

«I was left cut to shreds and my left hand ripped all the way up to my knee. I’m tired and very tired, and sleepy all the time.

«I was very disloyal and traumatized on Christmas Eve and didn’t really want to talk to anyone. Tony is doing a good job but I don’t think the intensity of all this has really hit him yet.»

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