An American tourist was robbed of his belongings on Saturday while he was saving a drowning man from Dublin’s River Liffey.
20-year-old Joe Sheehan, whose great-great-grandparents were Irish emigrants to America from Cork and Mayo, had only arrived in the city a few hours earlier. He was walking across O’Connell Bridge in search of a hostel when he spotted a man struggling in the river.
In an interview with IrishCentral, he said that passersby, himself included, were snickering at the sight of someone having a swim in the Liffey. “But once the rest of the crowd and I realized he was having troubles with the current, it got eerily quiet, like everyone was waiting for something to happen.”
“At first he was laughing and he tried to swim back to the steps to get back up, but he couldn’t make it. He started getting pulled away by the current,” Sheehan told the Irish Independent.
“His head started to go under so I ran around to the side, took everything out of my pockets, and took my trousers and shirt off.”
A trained lifeguard, his first instinct was to jump into the river himself. “I just wanted to keep the guy’s head above water.”
After successfully swimming the man to safety, Sheehan, “covered in Liffey” and only in his underwear, was told by a bystander (and soon-to-be friend) Katie that his Samsung Galaxy phone and his wallet had been swiped from the side of the river.
The wallet contained €100 and GB£40. A witness followed the man down the street and found him hiding between garbage bins, but Gardai haven’t yet been able to locate him.
The man Sheehan saved was reportedly quite emotional. “He said, ‘Thank you so much.’ He was obviously overcome because he knew that he was screwed. He had some other friends up on the bank and they were the ones who started screaming for help.”
Three Irish bystanders Katie, Cathal and Hugh witnessed the whole thing and were disgusted by what had happened. They treated Sheehan to a great night out in Dublin and put him up for the night at their apartment.
“I would have been absolutely stranded without their generosity and I cannot sincerely thank them enough,” Sheehan told IrishCentral.
“They showed me what a truly good Irishman and Irishwoman is and I am proud to say I am at least part Irish.
The hero kept a great attitude. “I don’t recommend swimming in the River Liffey. It’s not quite as much fun as you’d imagine,” he joked.
A student at the University of Nebraska, Sheehan is currently studying abroad in London at Kingston University and had to get back to school on Sunday night. But he said he would absolutely love to revisit Ireland when he has more time.
“I promised my grandpa I would have a Guinness for him at the storehouse,” he said. “That’s most of the reason I made such an effort to visit.”
“What I would really like to do is to visit the Cliffs of Moher and tour the countryside, especially up north where my family hails from.”
It’s thrilling to know that the strange and unfortunate start to his visit in Dublin didn’t scare Sheehan off – he managed to have a great night and gained three new Irish friends.
An official report of the theft has been made and it is currently under investigation by police.