A band of brothers from Arlington saved a five-year-old girl from drowning this week during a trip to Ireland.
On Monday, three brothers — Walter Butler (21), Eoghan Butler (18), Declan Butler (18) — were enjoying a rare sunny Dublin day at a beach with their brother-in-law Alex Thomson (24) when they heard someone crying for help. The group leaped into action after spotting a young girl on an pink inflatable floaty, who was being pulled away by the ocean current.
The group was able to rescue the girl and carry her back to safety, as first reported by Ireland’s Evening Herald.
The boys’ mother, Meagan Cummings, told ARLnow that her children were visiting Ireland to bury their grandfather, who was born there and emigrated to the United States years ago. But there was also something very special about the fateful day of the rescue.
“Their grandfather, when he lived in Ireland many years ago, got on a ship to join the United States Navy. When he was coming over there was a telegram waiting for him that said his younger brother had drowned,” said Cummings. “The anniversary of his brother drowning was Monday.”
Cummings said the drowning death had made her and her parents fearful of water. That was one the reasons she encouraged her six children to learn to be good swimmers. The three Butler boys swam with the Overlee swim team for several years, and Walter and his sister were also on the Washington-Lee High School swim team.
“Only for them my daughter wouldn’t be here today,” said the father of the six-year-old girl, in an interview with the Irish Times. The man said he was unable to reach her from the shore, and could only watch as the current dragged the girl away and led her to lose her grip on the floaty she was clinging to.
“You could see the brave little girl fighting for her life, her head bobbing under and breaking the surface, she clearly could not swim,” Walter told the newspaper. “She was doing everything she could to stay alive.”
Three of the brothers swam for twenty minutes — almost a mile in total — to reach the girl. They took turns carrying her as they made their way back to the shore. Eoghan told the Irish news site the Independent that the girl was a “nervous wreck” and they calmed her by asking about her birthday and her favorite color.
Walter currently serves in the United States Coast Guard as a Health Services Technician. His mother said he put his training to use, assembling a plan for his three brothers to swim the distance and retrieve the girl while he met them halfway, to save his strength in case he needed to administer first aid.
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) July 23, 2019
Alex, who is married to the brothers’ sister Juliana, told the Independent that he thought of his own growing family during the rescue.
“The main thing I was thinking about was we couldn’t lose that little girl,” he said. “I’m expecting a daughter in October, and was empathizing with the father’s fear.”
Authorities reported the girl was taken to the hospital after the rescue and was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Her father confirmed on Tuesday she was recovering back at home.
“The way I feel about it they were given a chance to rise to their best. And they did,” said Cummings, the boys’ mother. “And that just made me feel so proud.”
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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Something eerie is going on at the Overlee property, and it has nothing to do with logistics of the pool renovation project. Workers report seeing an extra person lingering at the construction site — a ghost.
The news isn’t entirely surprising to those who know the history of Overlee. The Victorian clubhouse, which was recently torn down, had been built in the 1890s and came to be known as the Febrey-Kincheloe House. Ernest Febrey built the house and later it was inhabited by the Kincheloe family. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Kincheloe turned the house into Crestwood Sanitarium, a home for elderly Washington dignitaries.
But the ghost isn’t believed to be one of the sanitarium inhabitants. Mike Maleski, who is on the Overlee Board of Directors, said that for decades people have reported seeing a girl in Victorian clothing. Researchers think the girl is Margaret Febrey who died in January 1913, and was said to be 14 years old. A family member reported that the Febrey family stopped using the house after Margaret’s death.
Over the years, some managers for the property had lived in the upper levels of the house and encountered the ghost. Managers and contractors have reported seeing a girl in odd clothing near the stairs of the basement. In January, some crew members demolishing the house admitted to talking to a girl who fit the description, and they believe it was the Febrey ghost.
The Febrey ghost isn’t the only unusual activity that’s been reported on the property.
“There were other ghost stories as well,” Maleski said. “Music and strange noises and things. I don’t know if that’s been idenfitied as one person. Most people believe it’s from the time when it was a sanitarium.”
The Febrey ghost appears to be friendly and has chatted with numerous people on the property throughout the years, we’re told. She also has been known to enjoy playing with children at the Overlee pool.
Nobody has reported any additional sightings since January.
After a number of delays, the long awaited construction on the Overlee Community Association pool and clubhouse (6030 Lee Hwy) has begun. Final permits were obtained just last week, allowing construction to move forward.
The delay in obtaining county permits has been one of the numerous factors contributing to overall project delays, according to Overlee Long Range Planning Committee Chairman Chris Tai. He explained that a project like this is difficult due to squeezing a number of different things onto one compact site.
To those who criticize the length of time the project has taken to get going, Tai suggests remaining focused on forward progress.
“There’s plenty of time later to go back and figure out what could have been done differently,” Tai said. “But for now, we’re focused on getting the pool open and minimizing the disruption to members and the community in general.”
Demolition of the pool and the late 19th centruy clubhouse began in January and recently finished. Currently, crews at the site have begun construction on the new pool, deck and surrounding facilites.
The plan is to open different sections of the club in phases as they’re completed. Safety barriers will surround areas that are still under construction. The goal is to get the bath house and lap pool opened first, so swimmers can get back in the water as soon as possible. At this point, the best estimate for opening the main pool and surrounding deck is early June. The clubhouse will open last, possibly as soon as mid-July.
Tai says the lack of a clubhouse for at least part of the season should come as no surprise to members.
“We told all our members from day one that they shouldn’t anticipate much use of the clubhouse this coming summer,” Tai said. “The priority is to get the main pool up and running as soon as possible.”
The Ben Affleck-directed political thriller Argo is filming in the D.C. area, and the Overlee Community Association and Pool is one of the areas where production vehicles have been congregating.
Period-specific cars and taxis can be seen parked in the club’s parking lot off of Lee Highway. A sign on a light poll reads: “Stage 16.”
The production has been casting for extras in Virginia. This casting call says the film will be shooting on Nov. 18, 19 and 20.