Four brothers on a trip to Ireland to honor their late grandfather became heroes on Monday when they saved a 6-year-old girl from drifting out to sea and possibly drowning.
Eoghan Butler, 18, his twin brother Declan Butler, 18, Walter Butler, 21, and their brother-in-law Alex Thomson, 24, had just arrived at Portmarnock Beach in Dublin for a fun day at the beach when they saw a young girl being swept out to sea on a pink flamingo raft.
As the girl's father yelled for help, no lifeguards appeared. The brothers sprung into action, racing into the water and speed-swimming out to the girl. After an almost hour-long ordeal, they brought the girl and her father, who had also attempted to save her, safely back to shore.
The brothers, who were in Ireland with other members of their family on a trip to honor their recently deceased grandfather, Walter John Butler, who was 84 at the time of his passing, arrived at the beach around 2 p.m. When the men saw the girl being swept out to sea and the father screaming for help, they didn't confer with one another, they simply acted, the younger Walter Butler told TODAY.
"My instinct was 'swim,'" he told TODAY, recalling the harrowing incident. "It was 'get to the girl.' By the time we started thinking we were already swimming."
Walter, who coincidentally was a rescue swimmer with the Coast Guard from 2017 to 2018, conferred with Alex and decided to swim back to shore in the event that the girl would need resuscitation. There were no lifeguards at the station near the part of the beach where the girl had drifted away, but thankfully for her, these athletic and quick-thinking men, three of whom just happened to be competitive swimmers, were.
Walter said that the other members of his own family who were present at the beach watched the event unfold anxiously, especially the wife of Alex, Juliana Butler, who is 27 weeks pregnant.
The brothers swam for 25 minutes to reach the girl, who Walter estimates had drifted about a mile out from shore. The girl's father also tried swimming out to save his daughter, but ultimately needed to be rescued by the young men. Walter said the whole ordeal ended just before 3 p.m. as the little girl was brought to a nearby tent and covered in blankets as they awaited EMS.
"We were in Ireland to celebrate my grandfather's life," Walter said. "It was fortunate that we could honor his life by saving a life."
Walter explained that the date of the rescue, July 22, was eerie because on that same day 64 years earlier, his grandfather had learned of his own brother's death by drowning.
The next day after the beach incident, the little girl and her family came to visit the men at the house where they were staying, bearing cards and a box of chocolate to thank them.
Walter said the experience helped him and his brothers ease their sadness over their grandfather's passing, and that it was a fitting end to his life.
"This was a big moment," he said.