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Brave rescue in 10m-high waves 29.06.07

At Midnight on November 12th, 2006 the Lough Swilly all weather lifeboat William Luckin was launched following a report of a 45 foot crabber in difficulty 12 miles north of Dunaff Head at the entrance to Lough Swilly, Co. Donegal. The vessel was drifting easterly towards Inishtrahull in very rough seas with six people on board. The weather that evening was Force 7 gale but as the lifeboat cleared Fanad Head they began to experience very rough seas and strong winds gusting up to gale force 8.
At 1.20am the lifeboat approached the Mary Ellen and George O’Hagan and the crew were on deck preparing to pass a towline to the casualty vessel. The crabber was rolling violently while Mark Barnett manoeuvred the lifeboat closer to the vessel and after four attempts the line was established between the two vessels.
After only an hour and a half, the towline parted and had to be re-established. The combination of the strong gale force winds and the heavy seas with up to 10 metre swells made this an extremely difficult task. At this stage after consultation with Malin Head Coast Guard, it was decided to tow the Mary Ellen to Greencastle in Lough Foyle. However just two hours later the towline parted again. Following further consultations with the Coast Guard it was decided that Portrush RNLI lifeboat would be requested to escort the two vessels into Lough Foyle and Greencastle.
At 5.20am the Portrush all weather lifeboat Katie Hannan was launched and made passage to rendezvous with the Lough Swilly Lifeboat. They arrived on the scene over an hour later and took up position close to the Mary Ellen to observe the tow. At this point the towline was giving cause for concern as it was chaffing badly. Fortunately the tow held and the three vessels entered Greencastle harbour at 10.30am. The Lough Swilly lifeboat had been out for over ten hours in horrendous conditions.
Awarded yesterday for their part in the mission:
Lough Swilly Lifeboat’s second coxswain Mark Barnett was accorded the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum for his role during the long and difficult rescue of the 45 foot crabber Mary Ellen and her six crew members on 12 November 2006.
Deputy second coxswain George O’Hagan is to receive a Framed Letter of Thanks from the Chairman of the RNLI, and Crew Members Gregory McDaid, Alan O’Hagan, Stephen McGavigan and Dan Gallanagh are to be presented with Vellum Service Certificates for their part in the rescue operation.
Presenting the awards, RNLI divisional inspector, Colin Williams said: "This was an arduous mission that required skilful seamanship, great tenacity and strong leadership with both
Receiving their awards are, from left, Stephen McGavigan, Alan O'Hagan, George O'Hagan, Mark Barnett and Gregory McDaid. Absent from photograph is Dan Gallinagh.
Mark Barnett and George O’Hagan taking it in turns to command the Lough Swilly lifeboat during the incident.
"The crew performed admirably in a very physically challenging service. I have no doubt that without the prompt intervention of the Lough Swilly Lifeboat, lives could have been lost." Mr. Williams also thanked the Portrush Lifeboat crew for providing valuable assistance and the two lifeboat operations managers at Lough Swilly and Portrush, Liam Magee and James Heaney who both received RNLI Letters of Appreciation in recognition of their support and assistance during the rescue.
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