Three RNLI crews are to receive gallantry awards for their role in rescuing nine people on a cargo vessel off Hook Head.
The coxswains of the three crews in Dunmore East, Kilmore Quay and Rosslare Harbour are to receive RNLI Bronze Medals for Gallantry – one of the highest awards presented by the lifesaving charity - while the volunteer lifeboat crews who responded to the callout will each receive Medal Certificates.
The three crews, along with the Coast Guard’s Rescue 117 conducted a joint 12-hour recuse operation off the Wexford coast last October.
The operation saw the Lily B, a 100-metre general cargo vessel with nine crew on board and carrying 4,000 tonnes of coal, lose all power two nautical miles from Hook Head.
Conditions were wild with severe force nine gusts and wave heights between eight and ten metres.
Without power, the ship was drifting and in danger of hitting the rocks on Hook Head or capsizing.
The 12-hour rescue in “challenging conditions” saw multiple attempts by the crews involved to establish a tow between the cargo ship and the lifeboats.
With the crew of the Lily B unable to stay on deck for long in the poor conditions and with language difficulties, two of the lifeboats were eventually successful in passing a rope on deck by using a rocket line and pulling the cargo vessel clear of the rocks.
The lifeboat tow was maintained for three hours with waves continually crashing over the decks until the tug vessel Tramontine from Waterford Port arrived on the scene and took up the tow.
The three lifeboats stayed with the Lily B until they reached the safety of the Waterford Estuary.
The crews have been hailed for their bravery and selflessness in saving the lives of those on board.
“Those crew involved demonstrated that unique blend of courage, selflessness, dependability, and trustworthiness, at their best, in the most demanding of conditions,” said RNLI Director of Lifesaving, John Payne.
“Without question their combined actions saved lives at sea. Conditions onboard the lifeboats were unpleasant in the rolling and pitching seas.
“The volunteer crews displayed fortitude, perseverance and courage to remain focused whilst under the most testing conditions, often up to their knees in water and heaving decks.
“The unity of purpose and sense of 'One Crew' displayed by all contributed significantly to the successful outcome in a protracted 12-hour service.”
Coxswains Roy Abrahamsson (Dunmore East), Eugene Kehoe (Kilmore Quay) and Eamon O’Rourke (Rosslare Harbour) are to receive bronze Medals for Fallantry “for their fine display of seamanship and boat-handling skills in atrocious weather conditions, in securing a tow and determination to succeed resulting in the saving of nine lives”.
The other members of the three crews to receive Medal Service Certificates’ are:
David Murray (Mechanic), Neville Murphy (Navigator) and crewmembers Peter Curran, Jon Walsh, Luka Sweeney and Kevin Dingley.
Philip Walsh (Mechanic), Aidan Bates (Navigator) and crewmembers Trevor Devereux and Sam Nunn.
Mick Nicholas (Mechanic), Keith Miller (Navigator) and crewmembers Padraig Quirke, Michael Sinnott, Eoghan Quirke and Paul McCormack.
The RNLI has also recommended a Medal Service Certificate for the crew of Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 117 “for their top cover and reassurance to all the crews below for the duration of the service”.
Signed letters of appreciation will also be presented to the staff of the National Maritime Operations Centre in Dublin and the Master and crew of the tug Tramontine.