Navy officer gets award for saving drowning man 13 years ago

Minister of State Paul Kehoe; Chief Petty Officer Ruarí de Barra; Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michel Ring TD; and Ray Wickham of Irish Water Safety.

A Naval Service Chief Petty Officer has just received an award for saving the life of a drowning man 13 years ago, little knowing back then that he'd go on to prevent thousands more from perishing at sea.

Chief Petty Officer Ruairí de Barra was only nominated for the award recently, even though the incident took place in Cobh on June 2, 2006.

It was his first rescue, but since then he picked up another similar award on behalf of the crew of the Naval Service flagship LÉ Eithne for helping to save more than 3,000 migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

The award for the rescue in 2006 was presented to Ruairi by Minister for Rural and Community Development Michel Ring, Ray Wickham of Irish Water Safety and Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe.

Ruairi was close to Kennedy Pier, Cobh, when a group of teenagers shouted for help after seeing a young man struggling in the water.

Ruairí sprang into action, fashioning a sling from a rope located up the quay, securing it to a fence and lowering it down to the man in the water. Once secured, Ruairí lifted him onto the quay and to safety.

The man, who was in his late teens, made a full recovery.

Ruairi was part of the first Naval Service crew which in 2015 volunteered to go and help the Italians rescue hapless migrants who were being sent across the Mediterranean Sea in deathtrap vessels by people-smuggling gangs based in Libya.

"We were the first Naval Service ship to take part in Operation Pontus and I accepted a similar award to the one I just got on behalf of all her crew. We saved nearly 3,600 people on that first mission. I have also served on Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean Sea. Between the two operations the Naval Service has saved more than 18,000 people," Ruairi said.

He has served in the navy for the past 22 years.

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