He was heading back to his mooring in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, when his rib struck something in the water and he was thrown back from the wheel. He fell overboard as the boat went into a turn.
“I felt like I was in a dream because, as the life jacket inflated, I looked at my left hand and it was gone,” said Eoin. “Then I looked at the boat and it was going in circles. I thought to myself ‘get back in the boat’, and I swam towards it and grabbed at the lifelines, but I was using my left arm and there was nothing to grab with.”
As he tried to process what was happening, the boat hit him again a number of times, finally knocking him unconscious. Luckily, his lifejacket kept him face-up in the water.
As the drama unfolded, a sailor spotted the revolving boat and man overboard through a telescope from his house two miles away in Camden, near Crosshaven, and alerted the RNLI. The lifeboat was launched with Kieran Coniry at the helm.
“Fortunately, we were in the lifeboat station in Crosshaven preparing for our open day the following day when we got the call,” said Kieran.
“Equally fortunate was the fact that the Port of Cork pilot boat was nearby with off-duty RNLI member Con Crowley on board and they were at the scene within three minutes. We were there a minute and a half later.”
Con had already taken Eoin out of the water and stemmed the flow of blood. The doctor attached to the RNLI station in Crosshaven met them in a boat as they made their way to shore. By coincidence, he had also been nearby when the accident happened. Eoin was taken by ambulance, with a garda escort, to Cork University Hospital.
It was touch and go, Kieran said, but then they got the call to say Eoin was going to make it.
“His two kids came down to see us at a later stage and they wrote a message saying ‘thank you for keeping our family together’. To us, that was success,” Kieran said.
Eoin, from Carrigaline, had fundraised for the RNLI before his accident and is now calling on the public to support Mayday, the RNLI’s national fundraiser, with the money supporting stations and voluntary crews.
Welly-themed events will take place from May 1-5 and people are encouraged to organise or help with fundraising events, donate money, or buy merchandise, such as yellow welly badges and keyrings. Yellow wellies are an essential piece of RNLI crew kit.
Irish lifeboats launched 1,087 times in 2013, bringing 1,278 people to safety.