Fisherman who saved crew after WW2 bomb blew up boat dies a year later

Lewis Mulhearn - BNPS
Lewis Mulhearn - BNPS

A fisherman who saved his crew after their boat was blown up by a Second World War bomb has died a year after the explosion.

Lewis Mulhearn, 39, was captain of the fishing vessel when it sailed over the Luftwaffe bomb on the seabed 20 miles north of Cromer, Norfolk in December 2020.

A crab pot disturbed the 290lbs explosive, which had lay dormant for 80 years, causing it to detonate. The force of the blast sent the 42ft fishing boat Galwad-Y-Mor into the air.

Mr Mulhearn suffered head injuries, three broken vertebrae, a broken sternum, knee damage, a broken orbital bone and multiple facial lacerations.

Despite this he located the emergency VHF radio in the debris of the flooded wheelhouse and sent a distress signal to the coastguard.

He then co-ordinated the rescue of his six crew mates, who were also badly hurt, by launching a life raft and lifting them into it despite being in agony.

Galwad-Y-Mor - LewisMulhearn/BNPS
Galwad-Y-Mor - LewisMulhearn/BNPS

Mr Mulhearn ensured he was the last man off the vessel and the crew was rescued by a Danish wind turbine ship.

All crew members survived and Mr Mulhearn was presented with the Emile Robin Award from the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society by Princess Anne for his heroic actions.

But the ordeal took a huge physical and mental toll on Mr Mulhearn, who died unexpectedly at his home in Weymouth, Dorset.

Police have confirmed there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. Mr Mulhearn's family said that he "died as a result of the explosion". He is survived by his wife Jodie, three children and two step-children.

His family said: "We are so proud of his actions on that day, but he always said he was just doing the job he loved as a skipper, which was to look after the crew.

"Fishing was his life, and he was a devoted family man when he was home from sea. Sadly, on January 21, Lewis died as a result of the explosion. We are all totally devastated. We loved him and will miss him so much."

Damage to the Galwad-Y-Mor's wheel house after it sailed over a bomb on the seabed - MCA/BNPS
Damage to the Galwad-Y-Mor's wheel house after it sailed over a bomb on the seabed - MCA/BNPS

Helen Lovell, the Devon area officer for the Fishermen's Mission, a charity that provides pastoral and welfare support to families after an incident, said: "Lewis was a hero and despite his injuries, his first instinct was to rescue his crew that day."

An inquest into Mr Mulhearn's death has been opened and adjourned by the Dorset coroner.

The bomb was a SC250 device that was widely used during the Blitz of London in the Second World War. It is believed to have been dropped by a German bomber aircraft on Allied shipping lanes in the North Sea in the early 1940s.

About 10 per cent of Second World War ordnance in the sea is reportedly still unexploded, remaining hazardous to fishermen.