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Four Irish RNLI coxswains get gallantry awards for lifesaving rescues in London

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Coxswains Eugene Kehoe, Roy Abrahamsson and Eamonn O'Rourke after receiving their awards. Photo: RNLI-Nathan Williams.

Coxswains Eugene Kehoe, Roy Abrahamsson and Eamonn O'Rourke after receiving their awards. Photo: RNLI-Nathan Williams.

The Duke of Kent and Castletownbere RNLI Coxswain Dean Hegarty.

The Duke of Kent and Castletownbere RNLI Coxswain Dean Hegarty.

Award recipients.

Award recipients.

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Coxswains Eugene Kehoe, Roy Abrahamsson and Eamonn O'Rourke after receiving their awards. Photo: RNLI-Nathan Williams.

Four Irish RNLI crew members have been presented with gallantry awards for their role in lifesaving rescues in London.

All four recipients attended a lunch recently for a number of volunteers, employees and their partners at St James’s Palace.

The Duke of Kent, president of the RNLI, presented the four Irish coxswains with the Bronze Medal for Gallantry at the event.

Castletownbere RNLI Coxswain Dean Hegarty was honoured for his part in the dramatic rescue of a fishing crew in October 2018. In challenging conditions, the Castletownbere crew saved the lives of six fishermen. A local presentation on a future date will see the crew involved receive RNLI framed ‘Letters of Thanks’.

The rescue of the six men who were the crew of the 25m fishing vessel, Clodagh O, took place on the evening of October 10, 2018, at an area known as ‘The Pipers’ immediately south west of the harbour entrance at Castletownbere.

Answering an urgent Mayday from the fishing crew, the lifeboat launched in darkness into a Force 9 gale, driving rain and heavy squalls, to rescue the crew who were in grave and imminent danger due to their vessel having lost all power after their propeller became fouled on their fishing gear.

Arriving on the scene, the lifeboat crew saw that the fishing vessel was located in a precarious position and Coxswain Hegarty made the decision not to take the crew off the boat but instead establish a towline in breaking 4-5m swells.

With the weather deteriorating, there was only a short window of opportunity to save the men before the vessel would hit the rocks or cliff face and be lost. However, Coxswain Hegarty skilfully manoeuvred the lifeboat into position and held it steady in high seas and the lifeboat crew on deck established a tow on the first attempt. The tow was carried out at a speed of a half a knot in case it parted, only gathering speed as they found shelter.

Meanwhile, RNLI Coxswains Eamonn O’Rourke from Rosslare Harbour, Eugene Kehoe from Kilmore Quay and Roy Abrahamsson from Dunmore East were also presented with Bronze Medals for Gallantry for their role in a rescue in 2020 that saved nine lives and prevented a 100m cargo vessel, the Lily B, carrying 4,000 tonnes of coal, from hitting rocks at Wexford’s Hook Head.

The volunteer lifeboat crews who responded to the call out will also each receive medal certificates.

On October 20, 2020, the Lily B had lost all power, just two nautical miles from Hook Head. It was drifting and in danger of striking rocks on Hook Head or capsizing in the heavy seas.

Over 12 hours the lifeboat crews made multiple attempts to establish a tow with the vessel. With the crew of the Lily B unable to stay on deck for long in the poor conditions and with language difficulties, two of the lifeboats were eventually successful in passing a rope on deck by using a rocket line and pulling the cargo vessel clear of the rocks.

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The lifeboat tow was maintained for three hours with waves continually crashing over the decks until the tug vessel Tramontine from Waterford Port arrived on the scene and took up the tow. The three lifeboats stayed with the Lily B until it reached the safety of the Waterford Estuary.

During the ceremony, Coxswain Eamonn O’Rourke was also accorded a vellum for his role during a Storm Ophelia rescue in 2017 in hurricane conditions described by the crew as some of the worst they had ever witnessed. The crew battled 10m seas in Force 12 conditions to save three lives. The Rosslare lifeboat crew involved will each receive Vellum Service Certificates.

Commending those who received awards on Friday and those who will receive awards locally, Anna Classon, RNLI head of region for Ireland, said: “The RNLI does not give out awards for gallantry lightly and to receive one is a great privilege. Everyone in the region is extremely proud of our lifeboat crews involved in these three rescues for their brave actions that together saved the lives of 18 people.”

RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie said: “First awarded in 1824, RNLI Medals for Gallantry are the highest honours bestowed by the charity. They are awarded for saving life at sea and celebrate the courage, skill and dedication shown by our charity’s lifesavers.”


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