Three courageous gardai based in Clonmel and a Clerihan man received National Bravery Awards last week for rescuing a man from a burning house two years ago.
Gdas John Hennessy and Shaun Brosnan were presented with silver medals of bravery while their colleague Gda. Mary Lonergan and Noel Wall from Clerihan received certificates of bravery at the awards ceremony at Farmleigh House in Dublin’s Phoenix Park last week.
The four were honoured by the Deeds of Bravery Council for saving a man, aged in his 40s, from a burning house at Fernville, Clerihan on November 4, 2010 just minutes before the ceiling of the bedroom he was found in collapsed in the fire.
Gda John Hennessy, a native of Co. Limerick, vividly remembers the night two years on.
“We were on patrol in the Clerihan area when a 999 call came through that there was a house on fire and the neighbours thought there was still someone inside the building.
“We got to the scene within two minutes and were the first emergency services there. A few of the neighbours told us they heard coughing and spluttering coming from the house. The front of the building was engulfed. The flames were coming out of the sitting room window. We decided to go around to the back and forced a window open.
“I lept in through the window. There was near zero visibility inside but I managed to find him slumped, unconscious at the side of a bed.”
Gda. Hennessy returned to the back window to get some air.
Gda Mary Lonergan, who hails from Co. Kilkenny, was outside and got a few towels from the clothes line and gave them to Gdas Hennessy and Brosnan to put around their faces.
Gda Brosnan, a native of Co. Kerry, accompanied Gda. Hennessy back to the bedroom and between them they carried the man to the window where with the help of Gda. Lonergan and local resident Noel Wall outside they lifted him out to safety.
The officers and Mr Wall then brought him to the front of the house where Fire Service and Ambulance personnel took over.
“Just as we got out some of the ceiling collapsed in the room where we found him,” recalled Gda. Hennessy.
“The three of us were taken to South Tipperary General Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. The level of carbon monoxide in our blood was fairly high so we were treated with oxygen.”
The man they rescued fortunately made a full recovery.
Gda. Hennessy, who is stationed at Clonmel Garda Station since 2009, said he hadn’t any hesitation about going into the burning building. “At the time we were the first emergency service at the scene... Human life was at risk, we had to do something.”
The three officers and Mr Wall were accompanied by family and friends at the bravery awards ceremony last Thursday. They were among 15 award recipients.
Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, who presented the bravery awards told them they had done themselves, their families, communities and country proud.
Gda. Hennessy was particularly delighted that his 11 month old daughter Aimee was able to attend the ceremony. She was born pre-maturely at six months and spent the first six months of her life in hospital but is now doing very well. “It meant a lot to have her there,” he said.
Supt. John Courtney of Clonmel Garda District paid tribute to the three gardai, who received the awards for their “exceptional” act of bravery at the Clerihan house fire.
“Gardai are often the first to respond to these emergency incidents and from time to time they are involved in exceptional acts of bravery. It’s great to see an organisation, outside of An Garda Siochana, recognising them for their courage on these occasions,” he said.