PHILIP McNamara, coxswain of the Donaghadee lifeboat, represented his crew of volunteers at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s annual awards ceremony in London.
The charity that saves lives at sea brought together all those who were involved in a dramatic rescue off the Co Down coast in September 2013.
Sam Cully’s life was saved after his boat sank in stormy weather. Donaghadee and Portaferry lifeboat crews, and the Irish Coastguard helicopter rescue service, were among those who worked together to locate and save the fisherman.
While he waited for help Sam stayed afloat because of a new lifejacket he received from a grant-aided scheme. He said: “I was only able to swim five or ten metres or so, and even then the wind and swell were washing me away from the shore. The boat went down quickly, and I was so relieved to find the lifejacket doing exactly what I was told it would do.”
RNLI chairman Charles Hunter-Pease introduced the organisations who played a part in the rescue onto the stage at the Barbican Theatre: the Maritime Coast Agency’s Fishing Industry Working Group, the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the RNLI’s Fishing Safety team, lifejacket manufacturers Mullion, Seafish and the Fisherman’s Mission.
Philip McNamara said: “It was an honour to be present at the ceremony and surrounded by so many people working together to help fishermen stay safe at sea. This was a life saved on the day of the rescue but Sam gave himself every chance by wearing a lifejacket and being prepared. Everyone on that stage was a lifesaver.”
Lennie Lawson of Portaferry RNLI said: “It was a very moving occasion. So many people work behind the scenes in the RNLI to make sure our lifeboats get to sea and we all do it voluntarily. In this instance the number of people was huge. The lifejacket scheme has been very important to the fishing community and it shows that by working together we can save lives.”
Sam Cully surprised the group on stage and the audience by appearing with his wife Marie-Clare to thank everyone present.