Three lifeboat crews involved in the rescue of a stricken fishing vessel and its crew off Fanad Head, Co Donegal have received awards for their actions, reports Paul Scott.

RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie presents Arranmore RNLI crew with their award. (Photos: RNLI)

Crews from Lough Swilly and Arranmore stations in Co Donegal, along with Portrush in Co Antrim, received a Chief Executive’s Commendation from the RNLI for their ‘outstanding actions at sea’ in saving the lives of five fishermen onboard the Sean Og II WT 372.

The three all-weather lifeboats were tasked to launch by Belfast Coastguard on the afternoon of 14 December, 2019, following a Mayday alert from the 14m vessel. The boat had been fishing for crab when it lost power and encountered steering difficulties in a heavy swell 20 miles north of Fanad Head.

In Force 11 conditions, the lifeboat crew worked with the fishermen to establish a tow in swells that reached 15m. Arranmore lifeboat crew undertook the tow, and once in calmer waters transferred it to Lough Swilly lifeboat. In total, lifeboat crew were at sea for 15 hours, carrying out the rescue in darkness. Despite their ordeal, none of the fishermen were injured.

The coxswain and crew at Portrush RNLI with their Chief Executive’s Commendation.

RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie presented Arranmore coxswain Jimmy Early and Lough Swilly lifeboat operations manager John McCarter with the awards. Portrush RNLI lifeboat operations manager Beni McAllister presented the Portrush lifeboat crew with their honour.

“The joint actions of all three lifeboats undoubtedly saved the crew and casualty vessel, with exemplary decision-making displayed by the coxswains. I would like to express my sincere thanks on behalf of the RNLI for the dedicated service of all involved,” said Mark Dowie.

Arranmore RNLI coxswain Jimmy Early said it was a great honour to be recognised. “All of our volunteer crew are delighted with this award, and the rescue was a really well co-ordinated service with the Coast Guard and our flanking stations in Lough Swilly and Portrush,” he said.

Mark Dowie making the presentation to Lough Swilly operations manager John McCarter.

Lough Swilly RNLI lifeboat operations manager John McCarter, who accepted the award on behalf of the station’s crew, said that their actions that night were ‘nothing short of incredible’.

“To be at sea for such a long period is one thing, but to do it in incredibly challenging seas and alongside our colleagues was a lifesaving mission like no other. I am grateful to the RNLI for recognising the commitment and dedication shown by the three lifeboat crews involved.’

Portrush RNLI coxswain Des Austin Cox said that the challenging rescue highlighted the ‘incredible working relationship’ between the three stations. “We train for every type of callout but when you are in those conditions, it is great to be alongside your neighbouring lifeboat colleagues,” he said.

“My thanks to the crews who answered the call that night, and I am incredibly grateful everyone came home.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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