Davitt Walsh (left), with Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Shane Ross and Gary Robertson, a fellow Gold Medal winner, from Sligo.
Kerrykeel man, Davitt Walsh, and the volunteer crew of Lough Swilly RNLI have received Marine Gallantry awards for their heroic roles in a tragedy in which five people died at Buncrana pier last March.
Davitt Walsh came to the rescue when he saw a car go off a slipway at the pier.
The popular 30-year-old footballer into the cold waters of Lough Swilly, swam out to the rapidly sinking car and rescued 4-month-old Rionaghach-Ann McGrotty.
Tragically, her father Sean (46), his two sons, Mark (12) and Evan (8), her grandmother Ruth Daniels (57) and Ms Daniel's daughter Jodie-Lee (15), could not be saved.
Last night at the Marine Gallantry Awards Ceremony at Farmleigh in Dublin, Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Shane Ross, T.D., presented Davitt with the Michael Heffernan Gold Medal for Marine Gallantry.
"It's a fantastic honour to be here tonight," he told RTÉ after received the award. "There are so many fantastic people who have done great things at sea. I feel very honoured and it's a very proud day for me and my family."
The officers and crew of Lough Swilly RNLI, which responded to the tragedy, was also honoured at the ceremony.
Mark Barnett, Eunan McConnell and John McCarter of Lough Swilly RNLI with Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Maxwells
For their professionalism and courage in a bid to help those in need, they received a Marine Ministerial Letter of Appreciation for Meritorious Service.
Lough Swilly RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager John McCarter commented afterwards, "It's a wonderful position to be in, in many ways, this evening, to be recognised for the service that we provide. It's not the reason that we do what we do but it's very, very pleasant."
Rescue off Arranmore Island
Gary Robertson, a winchman with the Sligo Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter 118, also received the Michael Heffernan Gold Medal for Marine Gallantry, for his rescue of a fisherman whose boat capsized near Arranmore Island last April.