Skipper honoured for heroic rescue of fishing boat crew after explosion

Lewis Mulhearn, captain of the Galwad-Y-Mor, was presented with the Emile Robin Award

Lewis Mulhearn, captain of the Galwad-Y-Mor, was presented with the Emile Robin Award by the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society. - Credit: Sarah Prescott Photography

The skipper of a fishing boat has been honoured for his heroic rescue of his six crew members after an explosion on the seabed threw his boat out of the water. 

Lewis Mulhearn, captain of the Galwad-Y-Mor, was presented with the Emile Robin Award by the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society at its annual skill and gallantry awards at London's  Fishmongers’ Hall.

Galwad-Y-Mor, low in the water, after it had to be abandoned.

Galwad-Y-Mor, low in the water, after it had to be abandoned. - Credit: MAIB

Captain Justin Osmond , the society's chief executive, said: “It is clear... That Lewis Mulhearn remained calm and professional throughout this extraordinary and extreme event.

"Despite great uncertainty over the condition of his vessel, and the extent of injuries to his crew, he rapidly assessed the risks and made timely and well-balanced decisions to ensure the safe evacuation of all personnel.”

Detail of shell plating damage showing coating loss and indentation between internal frames on the Galwad-Y-Mor.

Detail of shell plating damage showing coating loss and indentation between internal frames on the Galwad-Y-Mor. - Credit: MAIB

On the morning of December 15 last year, Galwad-Y-Mor, was crabbing 20 nautical miles north of Cromer when a blast, believed to have been caused by old munitions on the sea bed, threw the boat out of the water.

Five crew members were knocked to the deck and deluged with sea water.


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Mr Mulhearn, in the wheelhouse, took a strong blow to the head. He also suffered three broken vertebrae, a broken sternum, knee damage, a broken orbital bone and multiple face lacerations.

Despite this he found the emergency handheld VHF radio amid the debris and sent a distress message to both the Coastguard and the boat's sister vessel, Ingenuity.

The wheelhouse of the Galwad-Y-Mor was destroyed by shock damage.

The wheelhouse of the Galwad-Y-Mor was destroyed by shock damage. - Credit: MAIB

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Realising his crew was still in danger and with the help of a crew member, Mr Mulhearn launched the vessel’s life raft, before ordering the crew to change from their personal floatation device into lifejackets and prepare to abandon ship.

All six crew members were eventually picked up by two boats operating from an offshore support vessel, the Esvagt Njord, which services Equinor's Dudgeon wind farm north of Cromer. RNLI Cromer’s all-weather Tamar class lifeboat was also called in to help.

Mr Mulhearn selflessly ensured he was the last to evacuate the stricken crabbing boat.

The crew included two UK nationals and five Latvians - all of them were hurt in the blast and some were left with life-changing injuries.  

Investigations suggested the blast may have been triggered by old explosives on the seabed being disturbed as crab pots were recovered.

Mr Osmond said the award recognised "his heroic and selfless actions in rescuing fellow survivors during this extremely perilous incident".

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