Navy man who died during rescue mission remembered on 30th anniversary

Serving sailors and former comrades of a Navy man who died helping to save the crew of a Spanish trawler held a special commemoration to remember him 30 years to the day of the tragedy.

Navy man who died during rescue mission remembered on 30th anniversary

Serving sailors and former comrades of a Navy man who died helping to save the crew of a Spanish trawler held a special commemoration to remember him 30 years to the day of the tragedy.

They gathered for a special wreath-laying ceremony at Naval Service headquarters at Haulbowline Island in Cork harbour to honour Leading Seaman Michael Quinn — the only fatality the navy has suffered in its numerous search and rescue operations during its 74-year history.

On the night of Jan 30, 1990 the Spanish fishing vessel Neusra Senora De Gardtoza (Our Lady of Gardtoza) ran aground on rocks on Roancarrigbeg in Bantry Bay during a violent storm.

The crew on the fishing vessel sent out a Mayday call on Marine VHF radio, which was responded to by LÉ Deirdre, under the command Lieutenant Commander Noel Goulding.

Once close, LÉ Deirdre launched a Gemini inflatable boat and two men volunteered to take it to the stricken vessel.

Leading Seaman Quinn, 27, and Able Seaman Paul Kellett, 31, who also attended the commemoration, set out in atrocious conditions.

The Gemini capsized after being hit by a large wave, tipping both men into the sea. Able Seaman Kellett managed to make it to shore, scrambling up into the rocks.

He was later picked up by a garda patrol car.

Meanwhile, an RAF Sea King helicopter, and some nearby merchant vessels joined in the search for his missing colleague.

The following morning, an Air Corps Dauphin helicopter, based in Shannon, recovered the body of Leading Seaman Quinn. The 16-strong crew of the Spanish fishing boat were rescued by helicopter.

The Spanish Cross of Naval Merit was posthumously awarded to Leading Seaman Quinn by the then King of Spain, Juan Carlos.

The Irish government awarded him a posthumous DSM (Distinguished Service Medal) 'in recognition of his unselfish bravery and devotion to duty.'

The Spanish deputy ambassador, Javier Gonzalez, attended the commemoration and laid one of four wreaths in memory of the sailor at a memorial in the base dedicated to all deceased members of the Naval Service.

Wreaths were also laid by Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Commodore Mick Malone, and one of Mr Quinn's three sisters, Angela Dunne.

At the same time, the crew of LÉ James Joyce laid a wreath at the spot where Leading Seaman Quinn's body was found.

Hundreds of Naval Service personnel formed a guard of honour at the ceremony.

Comrades of the Leading Seaman Quinn who were crewmembers of LÉ Deirdre also came to pay their respects.

A piper's lament was played. This was followed by a minute's silence and the playing of the last post.

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