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#Vandalism - Vandals have caused an estimated £800 (€900) worth of damage to an RNLI lifeguard unit at Whiterocks on the Causeway Coast.

Following two of the busiest days of the summer season so far in Northern Ireland, the RNLI team at Whiterocks arrived at work yesterday morning (Wednesday 19 July) to see that their unit, located near the entrance to the North Coast beach, had been extensively damaged.

The charity’s lifeguards discovered that the vandals had left behind broken bottles and a barbecue, while the unit’s aerial mount required for VHF communications had also been damaged.

A large rock which had been thrown at the hut damaged the unit’s outer skin, piercing the inner plywood and leaving a two-inch hole in the unit, which was also covered with indecent graffiti.

RNLI lifeguard supervisor Karl O’Neill said the damage to the aerial mount had threatened vital VHF communications, while the rock damage meant the unit was no longer watertight.

“Our lifeguards rely on the aerial to communicate with each other when on patrol and to communicate with their colleagues in the coastguard in the event of an emergency,” he said. 

“Thankfully the damage has not rendered our communications off-service but should it have, and should it have happened during the last two days, which brought thousands of people to our beaches to enjoy the good weather, lives could have been put at risk.

“It is very disappointing for our lifeguards, who have been working hard to keep people safe, to turn up this morning after two busy days and see the unit they need to carry out their job has been so badly damaged. It really does dampen spirits.”

It is estimated that the repairs to the beach lifeguard unit will run into hundreds of pounds for the charity.

The RNLI is working closely with the PSNI who have appealed for anyone with any information to come forward.

“We would appeal to those doing this damage to be mindful that the RNLI is a charity,” said O’Neill. “Our lifeguards are an essential part of what is a seamless rescue service that saves lives from the beach to the open sea.

“Our lifeguards’ primary role at Whiterocks and on all lifeguarded beaches on the Causeway Coast is to make sure the beach can be enjoyed safely by the public. We want them to be able to continue to do that safely and with peace of mind.”

Published in Coastal Notes

#Diving - A new commercial catamaran is part of a Portstewart-based diving firm’s efforts to compete with popular dive tourism destinations abroad, as the News Letter reports.

Diving is ‘big business’ for the Aquaholics Dive Centre, which provides services for big-name film and TV productions such as Game of Thrones alongside its training, sea safari and diving holiday offerings.

And it’s the tourism that such visibility brings to Northern Ireland that the company aims to capture, with its new boat just the ticket to explore more of the Causeway Coast’s impressive diving sites.

The News Letter has more on the story HERE.

Published in Diving

 An off-duty RNLI lifeguard has rescued a teenage boy this afternoon after he got into difficulty when bodyboarding in Portrush.

Conard McCullagh, a Senior RNLI Lifeguard on the Causeway Coast was cycling from Portstewart where he had been attending the North West 200 race paddock when at approximately 2pm he observed two teenagers on bodyboards in the water at Portrush West Strand.

Knowing the beach and the dangers of the water at Black Rocks, an area prone to rip currents, Conrad immediately sensed that the teenagers may get into difficulty and went to their parents who were on the shore. Conrad felt the teenagers were too far out in the water and advised their parents to wave them back in.

One of the teenagers, a 15-year-old girl managed to paddle her way in but the 13-year old boy struggled and indicated that he couldn’t get back in as the water was sucking him out fast.

Conrad immediately ran to the RNLI Beach Lifeguard Unit and grabbed a rescue board and went to the casualty and pulled him out of the water.

Once he had the teenage boy safely ashore, Conrad carried out casualty care checks to ensure the boy was ok.

Speaking following the rescue, Karl O’Neill, RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor said: ‘I would like to commend Conrad who wasn’t on duty this afternoon but used his RNLI skills and training to remain vigilant, spot the danger and go straight to the family when he suspected the teenagers may be in trouble.

‘This rescue serves as a reminder to us all that while we may be experiencing some good weather we still need to respect the water. It is a sunny warm day and the water appears calm and everything looks good on the surface but the reality is there is a lot going on underneath and the water can be very dangerous. The current the boy was bodyboarding in was simply too strong to paddle against. Thankfully, Conrad was able to go to the boy’s assistance today and we would like to wish him well following what must have been a frightening experience for him.’

RNLI lifeguards are on patrol from 11am-7pm at weekends on Benone Strand, Portrush West and East Strands, Whiterocks and Portstewart. They will take up full time daily patrol for the Summer on Saturday 25 June.

The RNLI’s advice for anyone planning a trip to the beach is to respect the water, check weather and tide times before you go and if planning to go into the water, swim at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags. Avoid using inflatables in strong winds or rough seas.

If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help and if you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can’t see a lifeguard, call 909 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Rescue - An elderly man with a suspected broken ankle was rescued from one of Northern Ireland's most popular coastal walks at the weekend, as the Belfast Telegraph reports.

The injured man was on a part of the Causeway Coast Way not accessible by road, requiring coastguard teams from Ballycastle and Coleraine to attend and help him to a waiting ambulance.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in Rescue

#MarineWildlife - The Causeway Coast is fast becoming a mecca for dolphins – and dolphin watchers, as the News Letter reports.

Now regularly spotted from the mainland between Ballycastle and Lough Foyle, the dolphins – which may number as many as 70 – are believed to have followed the Gulf Stream as its warm waters have dropped down towards the north coast.

But they're not just here for a holiday, as food is of the essence – hence their habit of approaching boats in big numbers in search of a bite to eat, or in the hopes of stirring up a big mackerel feast.

Rathlin Island appears to be a particular hotspot for the boisterous cetaceans, but Malin Head in Donegal also seems to be within their swimming grounds, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#RNLI - RNLI lifeguards on the Causeway Coast helped to bring a sand dune fire under control at the weekend.

Lifeguards Jenny Thompson, Liam Mullan, James Walton and Jordan Burns were patrolling Benone Strand near Coleraine on Saturday afternoon (16 May) when, shortly after 3pm, they spotted smoke emerging from the sand dunes as they were preparing to enter the water to do some training.

One lifeguard went to investigate the incident some 400m from the rear of the lifeguard hut and observed a large fire which was spreading fast due to a strong easterly wind.

The lifeguards contacted the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service before going to the scene themselves and bringing the fire under control within 10 minutes using fire extinguishers and shovels.

While continuing to maintain an operational and safe beach, the lifeguards ensured that no one was in any danger.

The lifeguards were assisted by staff from the nearby Benone tourist complex who provided the extinguishers, the beach rangers and some members of the Order of Malta who had been providing medical cover for a half marathon which had just finished on the beach.

RNLI senior lifeguard Liam Mullan explained: "The strong easterly wind was a big factor on how fast the fire was growing and how hot it was burning. Thankfully once on scene, we were able to bring the fire under control in about 10 minutes.

"Everyone reacted quickly and worked together using the water to contain the fire to stop it traveling with the wind. We then worked from behind the blaze using the wind to keep the smoke away from us. Using shovels, we brought the flames under control."

Speaking following the incident, Tim Doran, RNLI lifeguard supervisor, said: "While the primary role of a lifeguard is ensuring people’s safety in the water, they also have a duty of care for all members of the public when on land too.

"RNLI lifeguards have a good knowledge of beach access and the surrounding areas and we would encourage any concerned member of the public who comes across such fires to raise the alarm with the lifeguards on patrol who can respond and alert their colleagues in the fire service."

Published in Coastal Notes

#WaterSafety - RNLI lifeguards will be making a welcome return to a number of selected beaches on the Causeway Coast and in Co Down next weekend ahead of the Easter holidays.

After undergoing intensive training in preparation, the charity’s lifeguards will be keeping visitors safe on Tyrella Beach in Co Down and on Benone Strand, Portstewart Strand, East and West Strands in Portrush and Whiterocks on the Causeway Coast.



Lifeguards will begin their patrols on Good Friday (3 April) between 11am and 7pm on the Causeway Coast and between 10am and 6pm in Co Down and continue daily to Sunday 12 April.



Cover will be provided every weekend until the end of June ahead of the summer season, when a daily duty will get underway on all 10 RNLI lifeguarded beaches in Northern Ireland.

"Our lifeguards are looking forward to going on patrol and meeting people who come to the beach," said RNLi lifeguard manager Mick Grocott. "We would encourage visitors to speak to our lifeguards, ask for safety advice, and most importantly call on them should they find themselves in difficulty." 



Ahead of Easter, the RNLI has reiterated its advice to people planning a beach trip to stay well away from dangerous cliff edges which have been impacted by recent weather conditions.



Winter storms changed the profile of all the beaches with extensive damage at Whiterocks, Portrush East and Portstewart where there are high and unstable sand cliffs.



The RNLI’s advice for anyone planning a trip to the beach is to: check weather and tide times before you go and if planning to go into the water; only go swimming at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags; and avoid using inflatables in strong winds or rough seas.

If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help and if you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can’t see a lifeguard, call 909 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.



For more safety information on the beach you plan to visit, you can download the RNLI’s Beachfinder app to find lifeguarded beaches and more information.

Published in Inland Waterways

#Surfing - The News Letter has the lowdown on this weekend's Causeway Coast Surf Festival in Portrush.

This marks the second year of the festival, hosted by the Causeway Coast Surf Club, that mixes surfing with beach and street sports plus music, film and photography, with plenty on offer to entertain the whole family over the Easter weekend.

Aside from the action on the water, highlights are set to be screenings from the Shore Shots film festival that wowed Dublin earlier this month, and a collection of classic Volkswagen camper vans.

The News Letter has more on the weekend's events HERE.

Published in Surfing

#WaterSafety - The RNLI will host four free Surfers Survival Clinics next weekend, Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 March, on the East Strand in Portrush.

The clinics, which are run by the charity’s lifeguards, are open to surfing enthusiasts of all abilities and are aimed at developing both knowledge and skills in surf safety.

The RNLI programme, which is now being run for the third year in Northern Ireland, will show surfers how to develop their rescue techniques, learn basic first aid and surf etiquette and learn them how to help themselves and others if they get into trouble in the surf.

More people are taking to the sea every year for enjoyment and the Causeway Coast is a popular area for water sports including surfing and body boarding. The clinics have proved popular with surfers who use them as a chance to brush up on their knowledge and skills and pass on their experiences to others.

There are 10 seasonal RNLI lifeguarded units in Northern Ireland, each equipped with lifeguards ready to respond in the event of an emergency. RNLI lifeguards aim to reach any casualty up to 300m from shore within the red and yellow flags within three and a half minutes. Lifeguards are also on hand to provide advice and assistance to all water users.

Last year, Northern Ireland experienced one of its hottest summers for years and this was reflected in a busy season for the lifeguards located across the Causeway Coast in Co Down.

In all, RNLI lifeguards responded to 302 incidents compared to 159 in 2012 and came to the aid of 330 people who found themselves in difficulty, which is an increase of 153 from the year before.

The Causeway Coast, where there are seven units, was the busiest area, with lifeguards responding to 222 incidents and assisting 247 people.

Speaking ahead of next weekend’s clinics, RNLI lifeguard supervisor Tim Doran said: “Surfers of all abilities will benefit from the Surfers Survival Clinic. Amateur surfers will get the chance to learn safety skills, duck diving and surf etiquette which should help them minimise any injuries should they get into trouble.

“The more experienced surfer will be shown rescue and first aid demonstrations so that they can continue developing their skills in the surf.”

Spaces are limited for each session so advance booking is essential to avoid disappointment. Anyone who wishes to take part in the RNLI’s Surfers Survival Clinic should be aged 18. To book a space or for more information contact Tim on +44 (0) 77 899 25998.

Published in Water Safety

#Rescue - Two coastguard units, the Portrush lifeboat and a Royal Navy helicopter from Scotland were involved in the rescue of a woman who had fallen 50 feet off a cliff on the Causeway Coast at the weekend.

As the Belfast Telegraph reports, the woman, believed to be in her 20s, had been walking along the top of the cliff between Ballycastle and Ballintoy in Co Antrim in the early hours of Saturday morning when she apparently slipped and fell.

Search and rescue teams jumped into action when a car was spotted near Carrick-a-rede rope bridge some hours later, and the woman as located at the base of a nearby cliff below Portaneevy Viewpoint just after 9am.

The woman has sustained multiple injuries and was suffering the effects of shock and hypothermia, but was successfully airlifted to Causeway Hospital in Coleraine where her condition was described yesterday as stable.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in Rescue
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