Leading Seaman Alex Casey, a diver and medic, was there to meet his crewmates and proudly tell of the moment he resuscitated a toddler who almost drowned when the boat she was on capsized on August 5.
He said they pulled a family with an infant onboard. He had to resuscitate the child twice and was delighted he was able to help her.
Alex hurt his spine during the rescue operation and had to spend a week in an Italian hospital. He was flown home two weeks ago.
His partner, Aoife, who is expecting their first child in nine weeks, said he’d jump at the chance to go out there again.
“They can all hold their heads high after what they’ve done,” she said.
Army medic Conor McBride, from Swords, Co Dublin, spoke of how he and Navy medic Paul O’Connell made history when they delivered a child on the ship. She was later named Destiny.
They had been transferring her mother from another vessel and were not informed she was so heavily pregnant.
“On the second morning she had pains and later that day went into labour,” said Conor. “About 25 minutes after the baby was born. It was the first delivery we’d ever done. She was born lovely and healthy. We got her transferred to a hospital in Sicily. It was one of the proudest moments in my life.”
One little girl was delighted to see her daddy home in time for her birthday today, while there were hugs, kisses, cheers, flag-waving, and stories galore as families welcomed the 56-strong crew home to Haulbowline naval base.
Muireann Mulachy from Youghal, Co Cork, couldn’t wait to hug dad, Petty Officer Liam Mulcahy, especially as the whole family will be able celebrating her birthday at Perks Amusements today.
Stephanie McPhilbin from Blackrock was there with her three young children to greet husband Dwayne. Her daughter, Miah, was just three weeks old when he left.
“She’ll be able to see him properly for the first time,” Stephanie said. “I know it was fairly rough for the crew. I’ll have a really nice dinner for him tonight.
Yesterday was the first official function as new Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett.
The ex-head of the Naval Service was beaming with pride as he shook the hands of crew members disembarking the ship.
“They’ve done us all proud,” said Vice-Admiral Mellet. “They are very well trained, well-equipped.”
Referring to the 39 bodies the crew had recovered, he added: “Some of the things were challenging.
“They saw some things were would not like to see ourselves. But the have very good personnel support services and they will continue to get that.”
Minister for Defence Simon Coveney also paid tribute to the crew.
“The Government and I highly value the important work done by the Defence Forces serving with the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean, in what can be very difficult circumstances,” he said.
“I know all the men and women of LÉ Niamh are looking forward to spending time with their families and I am sure there will be lots of happy celebrations in the coming days.”
Since the deployment of LÉ Eithne in May 7,397 people have been rescued by the Navy.
LÉ Samuel Beckett has replaced LÉ Niamh on the mission in the Mediterranean and will be in her area of operations today.