Tuesday 16 January 2018

Hero fisherman rescues three neighbours off Donegal coast

Greg Harkin

A HERO fisherman who rescued three neighbours from the Atlantic ocean has insisted: “It was nothing.”

John ‘Jock’ Harkin, 57, rushed to the scene of a boat sinking drama in rough seas off the north Donegal coast yesterday.

Skipper Matthew Kearney and two crew sent out a May Day signal after their boat the Saint Elizabeth began sinking off Fanad Head.

Mr Harkin and his friend Denis Kearney were at the pier at Leenan, on the Inishowen peninsula, when they picked up a call from Malin Head Coast Guard.

“We took my boat the Niamh Crone and headed out to sea to look for them,” said Mr Harkin.

“They were a good bit out, maybe a mile or two, and I then saw an arm waving in the water.

“Their boat was gone and we managed to get out to them all right. One of them was in a bad way, probably suffering from shock, but we had them all aboard within a minute or two.”

But Mr Harkin and his friend insisted they weren’t heroes.

“We did when anyone else would have done, on a different day that could have been us out there fishing for crabs and God forbid we could be overboard,” he said.

Joe Joyce, from the local RNLI lifeboat crew, said the men were brought ashore and given oxygen.

They were able to walk onto the Sligo Rescue helicopter to be taken to Letterkenny General Hospital were they were treated for mild hypothermia last night.

“The water is still cold this time of the year and I understand these three men were in the water for 20 minutes. It starts to become dangerous the longer you’re in the water,” he said.

Malin Head Coast Guard officer Mike Mullins said all those involved in the search were relieved.

“Everyone involved, from the fishing crew to the lifeboats, did an incredible job,” he said.

“After recent events it’s so good to have these men safe and well.”

The rescued skipper is from a well-known fishing family in Leenan.

His father John Kearney died last summer after collapsing at the pier beside the village.

In a very busy day for the Malin Head Station, they also also co-ordinated another rescue

mission in Clew Bay off the Mayo Coast after a fishing boat caught fire.

The blaze was later extinguished and the boat towed back to shore. No-one was hurt.

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