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Baltimore lifeboat crew honoured by RNLI for eight-hour rescue that saved the life of a sailor who capsized

Three volunteer lifeboat crew with Baltimore RNLI were honoured recently, at a local event, for their part in a rescue that saved the life of a single-handed sailor, after his catamaran capsized off the coast of Baltimore, in West Cork. Coxswain Aiden Bush, Helm Brendan Cottrell and crewmember Brian McSweeney, received individual framed Letters of Thanks, signed by the Chair of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. RNLI Council member Ian Venner presented the awards, which was held at a station dinner, in Caseys of Baltimore.

Baltimore RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Tom Bushe, Lifeboat Helm Brendan Cottrell, Coxswain Aiden Bush, RNLI Council member Ian Venner, Baltimore RNLI crew member Brian McSweeney with Baltimore RNLI volunteer Declan Tiernan

The lifeboat callout began at 5.40pm on 19 July 2022, after the Coast Guard requested Baltimore RNLI, go to the aid of a sailor onboard his capsized catamaran, 70 nautical miles off the coast of Baltimore. The sailor was participating in a single-handed yacht race from France to the south coast of Ireland and back to France. The Coast Guard helicopter from Shannon was also tasked but due to the rough seas, gale force conditions and a tangle of wires and netting on the vessel, it was deemed too dangerous to attempt a rescue from the air.

The sailor had managed to launch his own life raft, but it turned upside down and he was unable to right it. Becoming exhausted, he stayed onboard the vessel. The lifeboat arrived on scene just after 9pm and Coxswain Aiden Bushe assessed the situation with his crew. A decision was made to deploy the lifeboat’s smaller Y-boat, with two of the lifeboat crew going aboard it. They made a couple of attempts to approach the catamaran in the rough sea conditions, before they managed to manoeuvre into a position where they could safely and quickly recover the lone sailor.

With the casualty was safely onboard the All-Weather lifeboat, he was airlifted by the Coast Guard helicopter crew and brought to hospital. The lifeboat crew then made their way home to Baltimore, finally arriving at 1.30am the next morning.

The meritorious service recognitions were awarded by the RNLI to three of the lifeboat crew for their actions during the rescue. For his leadership, decision making and boat handling skills in challenging conditions and limited sea room, a Chair Letter of Thanks was awarded to Coxswain Aiden Bushe. For their integral part in the lifesaving service a Chair Letter of Thanks was awarded to Helm Brendan Cottrell and crew member Brian McSweeney for their excellent decision making, seamanship, boat handling, and courage in carrying out this life saving shout.

Speaking on the awards, Baltimore RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Tom Bushe said, ‘This is a great honour for the station. The rescue happened a long way from home and involved split second decision making and precise boat handling skills. Conditions on the day were very challenging and with the added obstacle of the hanging wires and netting. Our crews train for everything and we know they can be called on to go out to sea for hours at a time. We are proud of our lifeboat crew and this recognition is well deserved.’

The event also saw two long-serving volunteers receive their Certificates of Service for their many years as operations volunteers with Baltimore RNLI. Both Diarmuid Collins and Declan Tiernan were recognised, with Diarmuid’s father, Pat Collins, receiving the certificate on his behalf. Diarmuid served as lifeboat crew on both the inshore and all-weather lifeboats, from 2010 to 2021 and was also a navigator for a period of time. Declan was Shore crew and a Plant Operator, with a record of service, from 2008 to 2019. He remains involved with the station, through his volunteer work with the successful station fundraising branch.