Coastie and His Brothers Rescue Drowning Girl in the Irish Sea

Left to Right: Eoghan Butler, Alex Thomson, HS3 Walter Butler and Declan Butler helped rescue a 6-year-old girl from drowning in the Irish Sea on July 21, 2019. Photo by Juliana Butler
Left to Right: Eoghan Butler, Alex Thomson, HS3 Walter Butler and Declan Butler helped rescue a 6-year-old girl from drowning in the Irish Sea on July 21, 2019. Photo by Juliana Butler

A Coast Guard petty officer from Arlington, Virginia, and his brothers are heroes in Ireland this week, having saved a 6-year-old girl from drowning in the Irish Sea off Dublin.

Health Services Technician 3rd Class Walter Butler, 21; twin brothers Eoghan and Declan Butler, 18; and brother-in-law Alex Thomson, 24, had just arrived at Portmarnock Beach on Monday with family when they heard a man screaming for help.

A little girl was being swept to sea on a pink flamingo floatie, according to their mother, Meagan Cummings, and a report in the Irish Times.

Without hesitation, the four sprinted to the water and jumped in, with Eoghan, Declan and Thomson heading toward the frantic child, who had been pulled roughly a half-mile from shore.

Walter Butler decided to remain closer to the beach in case he needed to resuscitate the victim.

Braving the choppy, 60-degree waters, the trio swam for more than 20 minutes toward the girl, watching while her head bobbed in the waves. At one point, she fell off the raft and dropped into the water, but she managed to reclaim her grasp and keep herself afloat.

"Luckily, she gave it her all, and Eoghan had enough time to grab her. Not a second to spare. A moment later, Declan and Alex are there to help," Walter Butler told the Times.

Relying on adrenaline and experience as competitive swimmers, the young men finally reached the girl and pulled her back toward shore, taking turns swimming on their backs, holding her on their chests and talking to her to keep her calm.

"They distracted her by asking her when her birthday was, what her favorite color was, those kind of things. Having grown up in a big family, they are really good with kids," Meagan Cummings said of her sons and son-in-law.

As the group approached the shore, Walter Butler swam out to relieve his brothers, carrying the little girl to shore.

"I couldn't believe it," Cummings told "I got this text that said, 'Eoghan, Al, Walt and I saved a girl from drowning.' It's such a feel-good story."

Fellow beach-goers wrapped the girl in towels and moved her to a tent for warmth. But the harrowing experience wasn't over: The girl's father, who had donned a life vest and tried to reach his daughter, was now in need of rescue.

Eoghan and Declan went back out to pull the dad in.

The girl's father told The Irish Times he was shocked at the speed with which his daughter was swept out to sea and said the young men had saved her from drowning.

"Only for them my daughter wouldn't be here today. They were so brave. They should get an award. My daughter was taken to hospital, but she is safe and well at home now. I'd really like to thank those men," he said.

The girl's family visited with the Butlers and Thomsons on Tuesday to thank them.

The family was in Ireland to bury their grandfather, also named Walter, who emigrated to the United States in 1955 to join the U.S. Navy.

When Walter arrived in the States, he learned via telegram that his 11-year-old brother had drowned while swimming near Cavan, Ireland. The date that Walter's grandsons saved the little girl -- July 22 -- was the anniversary of that death.

The boys speculated that their grandfather or brother Robert may have had a hand in the rescue, nudging them to the beach that day.

"We know as time goes on, her guardian angel will continue to look over her," Walter Butler told the Irish Times.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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