Two Italian brothers who were rescued from the sea when visiting the Aran Islands in 2019 have returned to Ireland to thank those who rescued them.

Ricardo Zanon and his brother Giovanni were hit by a huge wave at Pol na bPheist (the Worm Hole) on Inis Mór (Inishmore) in February 2019, and knocked into the water.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Zanon said he thought he would die after he fell 20 metres when the wave knocked him off the cliff.

The Worm Hole where a huge wave hit the brothers

"I just remember a big, huge wave like a grey wall coming towards me and then it was completely dark and I thought I was going to die," he said.

He recalled being dragged around by the waves before seeing the rescue helicopter.

Mr Zanon fractured his tibia and pelvis and shattered 8cm of bone, which required reconstruction.

"If I had to wait there [longer] I could have bled to death, but the water was so cold, it almost stopped the bleeding.

"I got injured but we made it, it wasn't that easy."

He spent a month at University Hospital Galway and a further week at Tallaght University Hospital before he could return home to Italy.

The brothers with their parents on Inis Mór today
The Italian brothers and winchman Philip Wrenn with their families

Rescue 115 was tasked to the rescue that day and Philip Wrenn, SAR Winchman with CHC Heli, who are contracted to the Irish Coast Guard, was lowered to the brothers.

As the waves were becoming more unpredictable, he made the decision to release from his winch and secure one of the men who had gone under the water. He then secured the second brother and all three were winched on board the helicopter.

Speaking on the same programme, Mr Wrenn said the rescue was a team effort.

"As a winchman, when you're on the deck of a boat or a cliff edge or mountain you have to think on the hoof and make split-second decisions and that comes from experience," he said.

Mr Wrenn was later recognised for his bravery that day and received the Bill Deacon Award.