Donate now

Clifden RNLI volunteer thanks fellow crew for coming to his rescue

Lifeboats News Release

Clifden RNLI lifeboat crew go the rescue of their fellow volunteer when he becomes unwell at sea.

RNLI/Mella Walsh

John Brittain is Lifeboat Operations Manager at Clifden RNLI and has been a volunteer with the station since 1992. John also operates a sea angling business and during the summer months he is busy bringing guests on fishing tours around the waters off the Connemara coast on his boat Blue Water. Recently John became very unwell while out at sea and required urgent medical treatment, it was thanks to the quick actions of his friends and fellow RNLI volunteers that a more serious outcome was avoided.

On the morning of the incident John suddenly became unwell while skippering his fishing boat, he had five passengers on board and was struggling to make it to his radio to call for help.

At that moment his mobile phone rang, John answered saying "Digger, I'm in serious trouble" and then collapsed. John barely had the energy to answer the phone call from his friend and fellow RNLI volunteer James Mullen (known locally as Digger) but that chance call set off a multi-agency operation involving Clifden RNLI, Cleggan Coast Guard, Rescue 118 and the National Ambulance Service and saw John being treated in the Emergency Department of Mayo University Hospital in under an hour and a half.

In response to a tasking from the Coast Guard, Clifden RNLI launched their Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat under Helm Owen Hayes with James Mullen and Gerry Claffey as crew. They were shortly followed by Clifden's all weather lifeboat, St Christopher with Alan Pryce as Coxswain and crew of Joe Acton, David Barry, Neil Gallery, Connor O Malley and Shane Conneely.

John's fishing boat Blue Water was located by the lifeboat crew rolling in the swell to the south of Inishbofin, two crew members boarded the boat to provide casualty care to John, the other passengers on the boat were found to be safe and well. Blue water was brought to Cleggan pier where John was stretchered off to a waiting ambulance. John was stabilised by NAS Advanced Paramedics and then transferred to Rescue 118 to be airlifted to Mayo University Hospital, all the while being cared for and reassured by his friends and fellow crew.

John is has made a great recovery since being discharged from hospital and he is keen to acknowledge the efforts of everyone who helped him that day, he said. "For all the years I have been with Clifden RNLI and the many rescues I have been involved with, this is the first time I have ever understood how it feels to be a casualty. It was a humbling and inspiring to experience first hand the care and professionalism of our crew."

"I'm so grateful to the National Ambulance Service and Coast Guard personnel for the multi-agency response and also to local fisherman Johnny King and Seamus Concannon from Inishbofin Ferries who were first on the scene and were a huge assistance.

"Most of all I'm incredibly proud to be part of a team that makes such a huge difference to people's lives, when you are in a very vulnerable situation it's a huge relief to see the lifeboat crew and know you are in safe hands. I'm sorry for giving you all such a fright and promise not to do it again."


Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.