RNLI volunteer, 21, saves swimmer in Cork just days after qualifying as helm

An RNLI volunteer saved a life yesterday just days after qualifying as one of Ireland’s youngest helms.

Jonathan Connor, 21, who lives in Kinsale, Co Cork, was at the wheel of the Kinsale lifeboat which was tasked today to reports of a missing swimmer in the Sandycove area.

“About 5% of our shouts tend to be time critical so it was a baptism of fire alright,” Jonathan said.

The alarm was raised at around 8am after three swimmers came ashore and reported their friend was overdue.

Jonathan, who qualified as an RNLI helm just last week and who has almost completed his first year of sustainable engineering in CIT, launched with his three crewmates on board the Miss Sally Anne Baggy II.

The combination of their training and local knowledge was vital, he said.

“I had a hunch the casualty would have tucked into a certain area for shelter so I swung the boat in towards that area on the way to Sandycove and there he was,” he said.

The swimmer was close to exhaustion and was showing the early signs of hypothermia when he was recovered by the lifeboat crew.

A range of other assets which had been tasked by Valentia Coast Guard, including local coast guard and cliff rescue units, the Waterford-based coast guard helicopter and the LE Samuel Beckett, were then stood down.

“We picked him up, got him on board and got him warmed up slowly and made for home. He was a bit incoherent when we got back to base but he was checked out by paramedics at the lifeboat station and was deemed medically fine,” Jonathan said.

At 21 since last October, Jonathan is one of the youngest RNLI helms in Ireland.

He, and fellow Kinsale RNLI helm, Lenny Fourie, passed out last week following the RNLI's rigorous training programme in Poole England. Helms are responsible for the safety of their crews and for all operational decisions made during emergency call-outs.

Jonathan is already an experienced sailor and a qualified commercial diver. He plays the saxophone in his spare time.

That calm approach was evident within days of him joining the crew. He was doing his radio training at the lifeboat station in 2016 when he noticed a fishing trawler was in difficulty in Kinsale harbour. He alerted the lifeboat crew to be on standby before the official distress call came through. Their readiness helped buy vital time which saw them get to the stricken Sean Anthony and save the lives of all three fishermen on board before the vessel sank.

Mr Connor’s father, a former crew of Baltimore RNLI, is a shore-based member of the Kinsale crew.

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