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33-Hour Survival in Liferaft at Sea After Wartime Air Crash Remembered in North Connemara

30th September 2019
To mark the 75th anniversary, Ambassador Crawford (pictured with cap) unveiled a monument to the fallen airmen in Clifden To mark the 75th anniversary, Ambassador Crawford (pictured with cap) unveiled a monument to the fallen airmen in Clifden

An epic rescue of five north American naval crew who survived 33 hours in a liferaft has been marked on the 75th anniversary of the incident in north Connemara writes Lorna Siggins.

Five of their fellow crew died when a US PB4Y-1 Liberator bomber aircraft - en route from Virginia, USA, to Iceland - crashed into the Atlantic near Ballyconeely.

Two days after the plane’s wings iced up after it hit a storm on September 14th, 1944, Michael Conneely (55) of Aillebrack, heard banging on his door. Outside were two of the five survivors, pilot Lieut James Trudeau and chief gunner Edward Vigeant, in a shocked state, and seeking help for their three companions.

The aircraft had managed to stay afloat long enough for some of the crew to scramble into a liferaft.

There were only two telephones in the area, but the alarm was raised and all five men were taken to Conneely’s cottage, where they were too ill to take whiskey proferred but received first aid. They were treated in Clifden hospital, and eventually taken to England.

A memorial to the five crew who did not make it was unveiled earlier this month by US ambassador to Ireland Edward Crawford, on his first official engagement outside Dublin since his appointment. He was also presented with the freedom of Connemara by Connemara chamber of commerce president Lisa King at the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Clifden.

Ambassador Crawford was invited to visit Mr Conneely’s cottage where the survivors had been given first aid, and also met some of the descendants of those who had assisted them.

The event took place on the eve of the Clifden arts festival, and during the continuing Alcock and Brown centenary programme which marks 100 years since the first successful non-stop transatlantic flight by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown.

Their Vimy Vickers bi-plane flight, lasting 16 hour and 28 minutes, also recorded the first transatlantic delivery of mail - prompting An Post to publish a commemorative stamp in June of this year.

Published in News Update
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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