Man who saved baby at Buncrana pier gets medal for bravery
Davitt Walsh who swam out to car where five drowned among those honoured in Dublin
Davitt Walsh, who rescued a child from drowning off Buncrana pier in March, with his mother Siobhán, as he received the Michael Heffernan gold medal for bravery at Farmleigh, Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
Five people died after being trapped in a car which slid down the slipway at Buncrana pier. File photograph: Peter Murtagh/The Irish Times
Davitt Walsh receiving the Michael Heffernan gold medal for bravery from the Minister for Transport Shane Ross at the National Marine Gallantry and Meritorious Service Awards, which took place at Farmleigh, Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
Davitt Walsh (29), who brought Rionaghac-Ann McGrotty to safety after the car in which her family was travelling slipped off the Co Donegal pier, was conferred with the Michael Heffernan gold medal for marine gallantry on Friday evening.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross, who presented the awards at Farmleigh House, Dublin, paid tribute to Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas, who lost her life during a search off Co Clare last month.
The nominations for this round of awards had closed before Ms Lucas lost her life.
The citation for Mr Walsh’s action in Buncrana extols his bravery at “huge peril to his own safety” and his “quick reactions to a very rapidly deteriorating situation”.
Five people, including the baby’s father Seán, and two brothers Mark (12) and Evan (8), died in the incident on Lough Swilly on March 20th. The RNLI Lough Swilly lifeboat crew who assisted in the alert received a ministerial letter of appreciation.
The gold medal – named after the late diver Michael Heffernan who lost his life while assisting in a cave rescue off north Mayo in October 1997 – was also awarded to Irish Coast Guard helicopter winchman Gary Robertson for his rescue of a fisherman off Inishinny island, Co Donegal, last April.
Mr Robertson worked in very dangerous conditions to cut the fisherman free when he became entangled and trapped in gear attached to a sinking vessel.
A bronze medal was presented to Sam Nunn and his crew of Ruarí Nunn, Brian Kehoe and Niall McGee, who rescued nine people from drowning close to the Saltee Islands off the south Wexford coast in August 2015.
Bronze medals were also given to Paul Dolan and Dean Treacy, who rescued a man from a rigid inflatable off Clontarf, Dublin, in October 2012; and to Charlie Hennigar, who rescued three people after a gangway collapsed between a pier and ferry on Inisheer in June of this year.
Ministerial letters of appreciation for their role in rescues were also awarded to the Skerries Coast Guard unit in north Dublin; the RNLI Castletownbere and Kinsale lifeboat crews in Cork; the Irish Coast Guard’s rescue 116 helicopter crew and its winchman Richard Desay; Dean Coleman who rescued a swimmer off Sandycove, Dublin, last summer; and Gavin Byrne who rescued three people off the Wexford coast last year.