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Review over failure to reward Navy heroes of LE Cliona boiler room blaze

Published 11/10/2015

Pat O Mathuna (right) and William Mynes were not recognised for their bravery
Pat O Mathuna (right) and William Mynes were not recognised for their bravery

Two Navy veterans not commended by the State for bravery after risking their lives to save more than 80 others from fire are to have their cases reviewed.

Lieutenant Pat O Mathuna and Stoker William Mynes suffered severe burns fighting the boiler room blaze on the LE Cliona in 1962 after a depth charge exploded prematurely during a training exercise.

The force of the blast lifted the corvette ship several feet out of the water in Cork harbour and ruptured oil lines sparking the lethal fire below deck.

Simon Coveney, Defence Minister, has ordered Rear Admiral Mark Mellett, Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, to review their case for a medal or commendation.

A large group of media including an RTE film crew and the Irish Examiner were on board the LE Cliona when the training turned into a full scale emergency.

Mr Mynes, 19 at the time, was in the boiler room when the explosion occurred.

He ordered two younger stokers to evacuate while he suffered burns on his arms, hands and face crossing the rising flames to cut off oil supplies.

"The defence chiefs wanted to bury the story," he said.

"I was at a function last Sunday and I was the only one without medals and as I said I have gone this far without one I think I can carry on.

"But it would be nice to get a letter or something to recognise it."

Mr Mynes was at the National Day of Commemoration in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in July where he said Mr Coveney told him "nobody will be forgotten".

He stayed in the Navy for six years after the LE Cliona fire. Later while working as a postman in Dublin he got IR£300 and a commendation from An Post for stopping a thief from stealing the mail.

"I got more from An Post for giving a fella a couple of clatters," Mr Mynes said.

Second in command on board on the LE Cliona at the time was Mr O Mathuna, now 85.

He left the bridge to help Mr Mynes and fought the fire with sea water for about 40 minutes.

The men were not eligible for Distinguished Service Medals because they were not recommended within four years of the incident.

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