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Wexford men presented with gallantry awards for lifesaving actions in treacherous conditions

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Coxswain Eugene Kehoe (Kilmore Quay), Coxswain Roy Abrahamsson (Dunmore East) and Coxwain Eamonn Kehoe (Rosslare Harbour) after being awarded medals for gallantry by the Duke of Kent at St James's Palace.

Coxswain Eugene Kehoe (Kilmore Quay), Coxswain Roy Abrahamsson (Dunmore East) and Coxwain Eamonn Kehoe (Rosslare Harbour) after being awarded medals for gallantry by the Duke of Kent at St James's Palace.

A photo taken during the rescue of the Lily B off Hook Head in October 2020.

A photo taken during the rescue of the Lily B off Hook Head in October 2020.

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Coxswain Eugene Kehoe (Kilmore Quay), Coxswain Roy Abrahamsson (Dunmore East) and Coxwain Eamonn Kehoe (Rosslare Harbour) after being awarded medals for gallantry by the Duke of Kent at St James's Palace.

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TWO Wexford RNLI volunteers have officially been presented with gallantry awards by the Duke of Kent at St James’s Palace in recognition of their lifesaving role in a major operation off the Wexford coast in October of 2020.

Coxswains Eamonn O’Rourke (Rosslare Harbour) and Eugene Kehoe (Kilmore Quay) along with their counterpart from Dunmore East RNLI Roy Abrahamsson were awarded the bronze medal for gallantry, one of the highest awards presented by the lifesaving charity, for their part in saving nine lives and preventing cargo vessel the Lily B from hitting the rocks in treacherous conditions off Hook Head in October 2020.

The operation saw Dunmore East RNLI, Kilmore Quay RNLI and Rosslare Harbour RNLI join forces with the Rescue 117 helicopter to assist the crew of the Lily B which had lost all power just two nautical miles from Hook Head. Conditions on scene were force eight with severe force nine gusts and wave heights between eight and ten metres. The Lily B was drifting and in danger of striking rocks on Hook Head or capsizing in the heavy seas.

During the course of a 12 hour operation in these horrendous conditions, the crews established a tow between the casualty vessel and the lifeboats. 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 scene and took up the tow. The three lifeboats stayed with the Lily B until they reached the safety of the Waterford Estuary.

It was not only this incident which Rosslare Coxswain Eamonn O’Rourke was commended for. He was also accorded a vellum for his role during a Storm Ophelia rescue in 2017 in hurricane conditions, described by the experienced crew as some of the very worst they had ever witnessed. They battled 10m seas in force 12 conditions to save three lives on board a 10m Dehler yacht Second Love. Those on board the yacht had planned to berth in Rosslare, but decided to head to Arklow in a bid to outrun the weather. The subsequent rescue lasted four hours in some of the most serious weather and sea conditions. In what proved a vital course of action on the day, a decision was made to pass a drogue (a device trailed behind a vessel to slow it down in rough conditions) to the casualty yacht and then establish a tow to bring the vessel to safety.

Eamonn and Eugene were both presented with their awards by Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and the RNLI’s President – at a special ceremony at St James’s Palace and he commended them for their bravery and decisive life-saving actions.

RNLI Chief Executive Mark Dowie explained that the medals for gallantry were first given out in 1824 and are the highest honours that the RNLI can bestow.

“They are awarded for saving life at sea and celebrate the courage, skill and dedication shown by our charity’s lifesavers,” he said. “To receive their awards at St James’s Palace from The Duke of Kent is an honour and as the charity’s chief executive, I am humbled and proud of all our volunteers and employees that make up this incredible institution. Every one of them and their families give so much to the charity and our purpose of saving lives at sea.”

There was similar praise for the Wexford men from RNLI Head of Region for Ireland Anna Classon, who 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 rescues for their brave actions that together saved the lives of 12 people.”


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