State marks Caitríona’s bravery with medal

Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas, who died last year following a rescue mission off the coast of Kilkee, Co Clare, was awarded a posthumous gold medal for her outstanding act of bravery.

State marks Caitríona’s bravery with medal

It is the highest award that the State can present to an individual, and it was accepted yesterday by her son Ben and Ms Lucas’ father, Tom Deely.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, who presented the national award,

remarked on Ms Lucas’ strength of character, spirit and willingness to help others. He said it was a reminder of how committed and brave members of the emergency services put their lives on the line every day to help and protect others.

It is just over a year since Ms Lucas, a volunteer for the Irish Coast Guard’s Doolin unit, died during a search operation for a missing person. The rigid inflatable boat in which she and two other volunteers were travelling, capsized in a heavy swell.

Ms Lucas, 41, a mother of two and a librarian, lived in Liscannor, Co Clare. She became the first member of the Irish Coast Guard to die in active service.

Ben, 21, said it was a great honour to accept the medal on behalf of his mother. “These awards recognise the great work that volunteers put in day- in and day-out,” he said. Asked to describe his mother, Ben said she was a very courageous, caring, and kind person.

But the pain of loss was evident on the faces of both Ben and his grandfather, Tom. “We are fine; we are coping day by day,” said Ben.

The national award was one of 15 presented by Mr Ó Fearghaíl at a ceremony at Farmleigh House in Dublin.

He said: “In going to the aid of others, at great risk to their own safety, our award winners displayed courage, resolution, and determination.”

Meanwhile, Co Limerick-born Garda John Hennessy received a bronze medal for saving the life of a woman trapped in a burning car that had collided with a tree in July 2012.

The garda had previously received a silver medal for risking his life by entering a burning house at Ballyclerihan outside Clonmel, Co Tipperary, to save a man’s life in November 2010.

Garda Hennessy, together with three colleagues, gardaí Alan Hayes, Mark Holden, and JP O’Sullivan, assisted in keeping the woman alive in her burning car until fire brigade personnel freed her.

All of the gardaí, who were based in Clonmel at the time, were awarded bronze medals and certificates of bravery. After finding it impossible to get the unconscious woman out of the car, they took turns in the vehicle to ensure her airways stayed open.

“When the petrol tank exploded it got a bit scary but, between us, we kept her alive and she made it,” said Garda Hennessy, originally from Kilmallock. “I did not think at the time that my own life might be at risk. The lady was in a spot of bother. She could not help herself, and I could do something to help her.”

Sean Baitson, from Park West Dublin, was one of four scouts awarded bronze medals and certificates of bravery for rescuing two people taken into the sea by a wave while visiting Hook Head Lighthouse, Co Wexford in December 2015. “A few of us ran into the water to try and help. I was frightened, but my first reaction was to try and save someone’s life,” said Sean.

Sadly, one of the two young people rescued, a young girl, subsequently died. Sean’s father, Niall, said what happened was terrible but he was glad his son ran to help instead of running away. “I have always been proud as punch of him,” he said.

Thea Foster-Lee from Cobh, Co Cork, was awarded a bronze medal for intervening to save her mother, Donna Foster, when she was attacked by her knife-

wielding ex-partner in August 2015.

The man, who was jailed for nine years in December last year, stabbed Ms Foster in the neck, chest, torso and legs. Thea, a Leaving Certificate student, received a severe injury to her hand that has left her with permanent muscle damage and impairment. Her mother was rushed to Cork University Hospital for treatment and recovered.

Ms Foster said she and Thea were very close. “What happened was horrific but Thea has come out the other side of it.”

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