Friday 20 April 2018

Heroes' welcome home for LÉ Niamh crew who saved 4,100 refugees' lives

Leading Seaman Alex Casey gets a kiss from partner Aoife Hernon
Leading Seaman Alex Casey gets a kiss from partner Aoife Hernon
Lead Seaman Darren Buckley with daughter Bella Nora Lee (4), on the LÉ Niamh’s return to Haulbowline Naval Base, Cork
Leigh Murphy from Limerick waits for her partner, Able Seaman David O’Brien
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

The two medics who delivered the first child born on an Irish navy vessel modestly said it was all in a day's work during the Mediterranean migrant crisis.

Army medic Conor Kilbride from Dublin, and Naval Service medic Paul O'Connell from Cork, delivered baby 'Destiny' to an African migrant mother - both handling the first birth of their medical careers.

The duo were amongst the 59-strong crew of the Naval Service patrol vessel, LÉ Niamh, which arrived back to a heroes welcome at Haulbowline Naval Base after a challenging three-month deployment to the Mediterranean.

The crew saved more than 4,100 migrants and recovered 39 bodies in one of the most difficult missions ever undertaken by the Naval Service.

Almost 500 relatives, friends and colleagues thronged the dockside as the crew, led by Lt Cmdr Daniel Wall, disembarked to cheers.

Medics Kilbride and O'Connell were reunited with Leading Seaman Alex Casey who was another hero of the Mediterranean mission - saving the life of a toddler who almost drowned alongside her migrant family when their overloaded craft capsized and sank.

Leading Seaman Casey from Cobh, Co Cork, who had to return to Ireland early after suffering a back injury, managed to recover the drowning toddler, performing Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on her.

"I did CPR twice. I revived the toddler and then suddenly she stopped breathing again. I did CPR a second time and finally she came around and starting breathing on her own," he explained.

He attended LÉ Niamh's homecoming with his partner, Aoife Hernon, who is 31 weeks pregnant.

Medic Kilbride admitted he was thrilled to be reunited with his girlfriend, Melissa Hickey, and his parents, John and Bernie from Swords, Co Dublin.

He admitted his next priority is to trace details of what happened to baby Destiny and her mother.

"The last I heard was when they were successfully disembarked at Trapani (Sicily). But obviously I would love to know how they are getting on."

He said that the entire crew of LÉ Niamh were deeply proud.

"It was a pretty astonishing thing to be involved in," he said.

Irish Independent

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