Sunday 26 February 2017 02:39:25 PM

Portaferry and Donaghadee RNLI Crews Receive Awards In London
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Crew members from both Portaferry and Donaghadee RNLI Stations in County Down attended the RNLI annual awards ceremony in London last week (Thursday May 22) to acknowledge their roles in a dramatic multi-agency rescue last year.

And during the ceremony, Sam Cully, the fisherman rescued,  surprised the group on stage and the audience by appearing personally with his wife Marie-Clare to thank everyone present.

The charity that saves lives at sea brought together all those who were involved in a dramatic rescue off the County Down coast in September last year.

Sam Cully’s life was saved after his boat sank in stormy weather. Donaghadee and Portaferry lifeboat volunteers and the Irish Coastguard helicopter rescue service were among those who worked together to locate and save the fisherman.

RNLI Finale partyWhile he waited for help Sam stayed afloat because of a new lifejacket he received from a grant-aided scheme.

Sam 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: 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, Portaferry’s RNLI Deputy Launching Authority said: “It was a very moving occasion and was lovely to be acknowledged in such good company.  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 behind the scenes was huge. This scheme has been very important to the fishing community and it shows that by working together we can save lives.”