Davitt Walsh, from Kerrykeel in County Donegal, has been presented with the Overall Spirit of Northern Ireland Award by First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
The former Institute and Finn Harps footballer, risked his own life to save four-month-old baby girl, Rioghnach, from what turned out to be one of the worst drowning tragedies to strike the North West and the entire island in many years.
Davitt, pictured (above), received his award, alongside his girlfriend Stephanie, Sunday Life Editor Martin Breen and Brian O’Kane, Specsavers Northern Ireland Chairman.
You can catch all the heroes of this year’s Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards, which were sponsored by Specsavers, this Friday on UTV at 9pm.
Davitt’s heroic rescue was one small mercy emerging from the Buncrana Pier tragedy, which resulted in five members of the McGrotty and Daniels family losing their lives on Sunday, March 20.
Little boys Mark (aged 12) and Evan (aged 8), McGrotty, their daddy, Sean McGrotty (aged 49), their granny Ruth Daniels (aged 57) and their aunt, Jodie-Lee Daniels (aged 14) all perished after the 4X4 vehicle they were in slid into Lough Swilly following a run to the beach.
Speaking after the rescue, Mr Walsh said: “I shouted to everyone to get out. The window was half ajar and the father was hitting it to break it. The window broke and the father sat on the ledge and water started to seep in. He handed me the baby infant and said: ‘Save the baby.’
“I took the baby, held it above my head and swam back to shore. I just feel really terrible that I couldn’t do anymore for the family. I think that, deep down, the father knew that I was only going to be able to save one person and the last thing he said to me was, ‘save the baby.’”