Avoniel Leisure Centre, in Belfast, staff are set to be awarded by the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the Drowning Prevention Charity, after they saved the life of a salesman who had a heart attack after a leisurely swim at the centre’s pool. 

David Mackey, from Belfast, had gone to the leisure centre for a swim and was about to take part in a sponsored swim when he suddenly collapsed and slipped into the pool on January 16 this year.

A member of the public, who was next to David, quickly lifted him up out of the water as the emergency alarm was raised and trained centre staff quickly assisted.

Kiera Crangle and Mark Mercer, pool lifeguards who hold the RLSS UK’s National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ), were the first on the scene and immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while duty manager, Andrew Gordon, also a NPLQ holder, contacted the emergency services and organised staff to carry out additional actions.

Lifeguard, Mark Mercer, said: “It was obvious that David was in a serious condition and it was imperative that CPR was initiated immediately while the emergency services were phoned.”

Whilst CPR began, swimming teacher, Linda Groves and lifeguards, Corey Curragh, Devon Small and Aine McKee, cleared the pool and put the area in shutdown.

Paramedics arrived on the scene within five minutes and, as Mark continued performing CPR on David, they worked around him, delivering three shocks on the AED (automated external defibrillator) and adrenaline to save his life. In total, CPR was performed for 19 minutes.

David was then rushed to hospital where he had four stents fitted and was released from hospital just under a month later.

David, 66, said: “If it wasn’t for the centre staff at Avoniel, I wouldn’t be here today. I am grateful to the team for their actions – they are an amazing team. Due to their quick actions and their knowledge and training, they saved my life. I would also like to thank the member of public who alerted the staff and also the paramedics who attended.

“Since my heart attack I was informed by everyone in the hospital – nurses, doctors and consultants that treated me – that the lifeguards had saved my life and also prevented brain damage by lack of oxygen.

“I am extremely happy that the team are being recognised for their actions by being awarded by the RLSS UK.”

Avoniel Leisure Centre General Manager, Declan Sheridan said: “Our staff reacted immediately when the incident occurred and their NPLQ training was delivered with tremendous professionalism. All of our lifeguards have RLSS UK National Pool Lifeguard Qualifications (NPLQ) and participate in staff training monthly (delivered by Norman Stewart, Trainer Assessor) to prepare for this type of scenario. The actions of the team saved David’s life and reinforce the need for continuous high quality NPLQ training.”

Di Steer, RLSS UK Chief Executive said: “We were pleased to hear about the leisure centre staff working as a fantastic and efficient team to save the life of David and felt they deserved to be recognised in some way.

“An incident like this highlights how important it is to be trained in CPR. Well done to the team.”

David is set to return to the leisure centre on 7 March along with the RLSS UK to thank and award the team for their actions.