Lough Swilly RNLI awarded for ‘Meritorious Service’ on night of Buncrana pier tragedy

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Shane Ross, T.D. presents the award to Liugh Swilly RNLI  Lifeboat Operations Manager John McCarter, Coxswain Mark Barnett and Deputy Launching Authority Eunan McConnell.

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Shane Ross, T.D. presents the award to Liugh Swilly RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager John McCarter, Coxswain Mark Barnett and Deputy Launching Authority Eunan McConnell.

The volunteer lifeboat crew from Lough Swilly RNLI in County Donegal has been awarded a Marine Ministerial Letter of Appreciation for Meritorious Service.

The lifeboat crew were awarded for their service on Sunday, 20th March, when the volunteers were requested to launch their all-weather and inshore lifeboats following a report that a car had entered the water at Buncrana Pier. Five occupants of the car, all members of the one family, died in the tragedy while a member of the public, Davitt Walsh saved the life of a young baby.

Lough Swilly RNLI was one of the first emergency services on scene and recovered five casualties from the water. The lifeboat crew proceeded to provide casualty care on the shore but sadly all five, Sean McGrotty, his sons Mark and Evan, Ruth Daniels and her daughter Jodie Lee, all from Derry were pronounced dead a short time later.

While RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew train for and respond to every possible incident, the events in the Buncrana community that night, were extremely tragic and challenging.

The volunteer crew responded to the call out with professionalism and courage and used their skills and training in a bid to help those in need.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the crew members have demonstrated great character and resilience as they continue to respond to call outs and help save lives at sea.

The award in recognition of the crew’s professionalism and courage in a bid to help those in need, was presented by the Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Shane Ross, T.D. at the National Marine Gallantry and Meritorious Service Awards 2016 at a ceremony in Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park.

Lough Swilly RNLI was represented at the awards by Lifeboat Operations Manager John McCarter, Coxswain Mark Barnett and Deputy Launching Authority Eunan McConnell.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Minister Ross praised the “courageous achievements and service of this group of brave Irish men and women who have faced crises and dug deep, offering their skills and in many cases placing themselves in danger in order that others might be safe on our waterways”.

Pausing to remember those who lost their lives at sea since the last set of Awards in 2014, Minister Ross spoke of the tragic death of volunteer Coast Guard Caitríona Lucas last month, describing her as “a courageous and heroic woman who made the ultimate sacrifice while in the service of others”.

The awards are to recognise outstanding acts of courage, heroism, skill and initiative in the context of marine emergency incidents. The scheme also recognises exceptional dedication to duty in the execution of Ireland’s marine emergency response.

A Marine Ministerial Letter of Appreciation may be awarded for meritorious service where outstanding dedication to duty over a career of service can be demonstrated, or for an act of particular meritorious dedication, showing skill and initiative, but which is not of an order for receipt of a Meritorious Service or Marine Gallantry medal.

The volunteer lifeboat crew from Kinsale RNLI and Castletownbere RNLI in County Cork were also awarded a Marine Ministerial Letter of Appreciation.

The National Marine Gallantry and Meritorious Service Awards Committee is chaired by Bryan Dobson of RTÉ.