The Irish Coast Guard was warned over three years ago of difficulties with full inflation of lifejackets used by its inshore search, rescue and recovery craft, as Lorna Siggins reports in The Sunday Times reports today here.
The Irish Coast Guard confirmed on Friday evening it had initiated an investigation into what it described as the “recent malfunctioning of Rescue 400 lifejackets”, and said it had suspended sea rescue at 23 of its 44 stations.
However, separate alarms were raised shortly after the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas off the Co Clare coast in September 2016, when key safety equipment used at separate stations failed tests.
Systems and equipment failures were raised in the subsequent Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into Ms Lucas’s death, but her husband Bernard said he believed the MCIB did not adequately address the failure of the safety equipment his wife was wearing.
It is understood a separate Health and Safety Authority (HSA) report into her death has been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Ms Lucas, a mother of two and highly experienced member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, sustained injury to her head after the capsize of a Delta rigid inflatable boat (RIB) during the search for a missing man off Kilkee, Co Clare, on September 12th, 2016.
She was the first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die in service. Two other crew on board were rescued.
Shortly after her death, a senior coxswain who had served with Ms Lucas at Doolin Coast Guard asked the unit’s safety officer to record that his helmet, drysuit and lifejacket were not fit for purpose.
His drysuit, which he had been wearing during the day Ms Lucas died, failed a water test the next time he put it on.
The coxswain had also recovered a helmet on the day of the Kilkee RIB capsize which had its buckle fully fastened - suggesting it was properly worn, but had failed to weather impact.
Independently, Irish Water Safety alerted the Irish Coast Guard to an issue with the Rescue 400 lifejackets, after a community rescue unit in Munster claimed there was a serious design flaw.
It is understood the Mallow search and rescue unit undertook its own tests on the Rescue 400 jacket in late September 2016, and noted that the position of the toggle to inflate the jacket manually was difficult to access.
The supplier was unavailable for comment.
Ms Lucas’s husband, Bernard Lucas, told The Sunday Times he believed the lifejackets and helmets used by the Irish Coast Guard should have been withdrawn for testing immediately after his wife’s death.
The Irish Coast Guard said last year said it had conducted independent testing of lifejackets in Britain and found them to be “fully compliant” for use in Atlantic waters.
Full report in The Sunday Times here
Combined marine, fire and ambulance services worked with local residents and the Garda to recover a man from the sea in south Galway last night after the car he was driving left the pier in Kinvara writes Lorna Siggins.
The man, believed to be in his late seventies, was taken to hospital in Galway city where he died overnight.
The alarm was raised after the car left the pier close to the south Galway village shortly after 8 pm on Thursday.
The Galway RNLI inshore lifeboat, the Irish Coast Guard Rescue 115 Shannon-based helicopter, National Ambulance Service and Galway city and Gort fire brigade units were tasked, while locals and a fishing vessel assisted in locating the vehicle in the water.
The man was taken from the vehicle at about 9 pm and attempts were made to resuscitate him before taking him to hospital in Galway by ambulance.
The Irish Coast Guard’s Doolin unit also despatched a rescue craft by road to the scene.
The car was lifted by crane from the water before 9.30 pm, and it was established that the man was the only occupant.
An adult weighted target was then successfully located using the ROV camera and it was brought to the surface by the ROV using its gripping arm.
The Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI have issued a joint warning to the public as Storm Lorenzo approaches to remind people to pay particular attention to their personal safety while outdoors and along the coastline during this time.
While the severity of the storm is not fully known and its path is changeable the organisations have issued advice to mariners to monitor all sea area forecasts broadcast by Met Eireann, be prepared and to take heed of the advice and sea conditions. Leisure craft users are also being advised to avoid any unnecessary sea activity.
In addition, walkers are advised to avoid any exposed areas, including seafront walkways, as they may be hit by sudden gusts exposing themselves to unnecessary danger.
Coast Guard Operations Manager Derek Flanagan said: “We wish to remind everybody to take note of the weather forecasts and we are reminding walkers to ‘Stay Back – Stay Dry – Stay High’.
RNLI Lifesaving Manager Sean Dillon added: “Our lifeboat crews have been busy this year and are ever ready to answer any call for help. However, they would always prefer that people take advice and stay safe during storm warnings than put themselves and others at risk by their actions.
If you see someone in difficulty or are concerned about somebody’s whereabouts on or near the water use VHF channel 16 or dial 112, and ask for the Coast Guard.
For the next 12 months, a new drone trial is taking flight to support vital search and rescue action around the coast of Essex, thanks to a partnership between Essex Police, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
The year-long trial, which starts today 29 April, 2019 will provide HM Coastguard Rescue Teams with more eyes in the sky to assist with search and rescue operations around the county’s coastline, supporting the vital work of their teams and the RNLI.
From helping to search for casualties in hazardous locations and directing HM Coastguard and RNLI lifeboat crews to their locations to enable emergency services to risk assess situations before deploying rescue personnel to the scene, Essex Police’s Drone Unit will provide a range of operational benefits to the search and rescue teams.
At the end of the year-long pilot the impact that drones have had on coastal search and rescue activity in the region will be assessed, and that information will help inform the MCA and RNLI’s ongoing work to explore the role that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can play in future search and rescue activity.
HM Coastguard Teams from Walton, Clacton, Mersea Island, South Woodham Ferrers, Southend and Canvey Island will be taking part in the trial, supported by a range of inshore and all-weather lifeboats and hovercraft strategically located at six RNLI lifeboat stations along that stretch of the Essex coastline.
Phil Hanson, Aviation Technical Assurance Manager at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said the MCA was proud to be a partner and support the evolution of drones in UK search and rescue.
‘Thanks to the Essex Police Drone Unit, we are able to trial this innovative technology to help rescuers on the front line with more accurate aerial vision, conduct searches in hard to reach or hazardous areas, assist with night time thermal imagery searches and relaying messages from rescuers to casualties. This will allow rescuers to make more informed decisions and ultimately help make the coast safer – particularly as the busy season is now almost upon us.
‘One thing, we need to stress is that the drones will not replace our Coastguard helicopters, Coastguard Rescue Teams, RNLI or independent lifeboats. However, it is entirely possible that they could be an additional tool to use in search and rescue and enhance our existing capabilities.’
Essex Police Drone Manager Perran Bonner added: ‘We are delighted to be supporting the invaluable work of the MCA and RNLI in keeping our county's coastlines safe.
‘Our drone team will be available to assist both organisations in their endeavours, whether this is by providing a live view of the county's coast, investigating suspicious behaviour, responding to welfare concerns or searching for a missing person.
‘The technology available to us and the expertise of our officers mean that we can provide accurate and up-to-date information to the relevant people, ensuring that a quick and appropriate response can be taken, that Essex residents and visitors are kept safe and anyone using our coastline to commit crime are brought to justice.’
Will Roberts, Senior Innovation Manager at the RNLI, said: ‘This pilot will provide our lifesavers with the opportunity to benefit from the advantages that drones can provide when they’re searching for casualties.
‘The increased situational awareness that drones provide could play a significant role in helping us locate casualties as quickly as possible. When lives are at risk, the speed at which our crews can locate and reach a casualty is vital. Being able to see the impact that drones can have in helping our lifeboat crews search and then reach casualties through this pilot will be extremely useful.
‘As well as helping our lifesavers to search and locate casualties, working with Essex Police’s Drone Unit will also allow potentially dangerous scenes to be risk assessed before our volunteer lifeboat crews are deployed to the scene.’
With southerly Force 2/3 winds and good visibility, the lifeboat arrived at the scene 45 minutes after its 4pm launch.
Winds had pushed the cruiser close to shore and raised it high out of the water, so the lifeboat approached with caution while the volunteer crew assessed the depths.
One the casualty boat’s sole occupant and skipper was confirmed safe and unharmed, and the boat was checked for damage and lightened for tow, the cruiser was taken off the rocks into deeper water and shortly after was allowed to continue its passage unaided.
At the same time, Killaloe Coast Guard was tasked to assist three people and their dog whose cruiser lost engine power and was blown onto the Clare shore of the lough.
The Killaloe Coast Guard rescue boat launched shortly after the 3.30pm alert and was alongside the casualty vessel within seven minutes.
Once all on board were confirmed safe and well, their boat was safely towed back to Killaloe.
It was the second callout of the Bank Holiday weekend for the Killaloe coastguard unit after a search for a missing person on Friday night (19 April) that concluded on a positive note as the individual was found safe on Saturday (20 April).
A few days previously, Lough Derg RNLI launched to a 60ft cruiser with seven on board that had run aground in Coose Bay.
The all-weather lifeboat Jock and Annie Slater put to sea shortly before 1.15pm under the command of coxswain Nick Keogh and proceeded towards the vessel, which was reported to be 23 miles north-east of Wicklow Harbour.
The lifeboat was alongside the 10-metre fishing boat an hour later. Conditions in the area were good, with south-easterly Force 3 winds.
The fishing vessel with three crew had developed mechanical problems and had lost propulsion. A towline was secured, and the vessel was towed back towards Wicklow over the next three-and-a-half hours, being secured safely alongside the North Quay shortly before 6pm.
This was the third callout since the all-weather lifeboat Jock and Annie Slater went on station at Wicklow on Friday 5 April.
Earlier in the week, Kilkeel RNLI’s volunteer crew launched at 4.20pm on Wednesday (10 April) to respond to a call from the skipper of a fishing boat that a semi-submerged kayak was adrift at Leestone Point, north east of Kilkeel Harbour.
Conditions were good and the crew arrived quickly on scene. On examination of the kayak, the crew found there was an algae growth on her bottom and no signs that it had been recently occupied.
With no reports of a missing kayaker, the kayak was taken on board the lifeboat which then returned to the station. Kilkeel Coastguard were in attendance.
Speaking afterwards, John Fisher, Kilkeel RNLI lifeboat operations manager, said: “It is important that if a small craft is lost or abandoned that it is reported to the coastguard. This will prevent any further reports by concerned members of the public or other persons.”
Drogheda Coast Guard had a prehistoric mystery on their hands earlier this week with what the station is calling “probably the most unusual tasking we ever had or ever will have”.
And indeed when they arrived the volunteers discovered what appeared to be the skeletal remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex half-submerged in the mud.
But on closer inspection, the bones were revealed to be “a very impressive imitation”.
Drogheda Coast Guard officer in charge Dermot McConnoran told TheJournal.ie that the plaster-cast bones were covered in silt suggesting they’d been in the river for some time.
Further research has turned up images of the same skeleton “in a less river-worn state” from a little over a year ago. It’s not yet known who is responsible for its creation.
In an end of year review, the Coast Guard is continuing to highlight the capacity to Raise the Alarm and Stay Afloat as essential elements to reducing loss of life owing to drowning’s at sea or on inland waterways.
The Coast Guard’s core safety message is Stay Afloat –Stay in Touch highlights the importance of never engaging in any commercial or recreational boating activity without wearing a fully serviced Life Jacket or Personal Flotation Device coupled with a capacity to raise the alarm via means such as a VHF radio, Personal Locator Beacon or mobile phone. This should be supported by informing a colleague of your anticipated return time.
"Coast Guard Helicopter provide broad range of services"
Into 2019 the Coast Guard will continue to focus on the importance of Prevention as a core theme of drowning prevention and will continue to work with colleagues in Irish Water Safety, RNLI and the Irish Sailing Association in promoting water safety and identifying key risk areas. In early 2019 it is intended to re-launch the Safety on the Water website.
The Coast Guard’s three rescue Coordination Centres at Malin Head, Valentia Island and Dublin operate on a 24/7 basis. In the past year, the three centres managed a total of 2650 incidents which saw a rise when compared to 2017 (2503 incidents). MRCC Dublin also serves as the national single point of contact for processing Electronic Satellite-based Safety Alerts generated by EPIRBs, PLBs and ELTs. (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, Personal Locator Beacon and aircraft Emergency Locator Transmitters).
In 2018 MRCC Dublin processed a total of 137 electronic transmissions the majority of which proved to be false arising from accidental activation or out of date equipment no longer in service. The Coast Guard emphasises that this should not detract from their value and highlighted the importance for all users being familiar with their operation and inbuilt test mechanisms.
Key Message – ‘Stay Afloat – Stay in Touch’
Coast Guard helicopter services are provided under contract by CHCI operating a fleet of Sikorsky S92 helicopters out of bases in Dublin, Shannon, Waterford and Sligo. Helicopter services at each of the Four bases are on 15-minute notice by day and 45 minutes by night. In addition to their primary role of provision of maritime search and rescue services the Coast Guard provides a round the clock medical evacuation service to the offshore islands. In 2018 the Coast Guard flew a total of 102 medical missions from islands to the mainland, 35 more than in 2017. In addition Coast Guard helicopters conducted 8 Long Range offshore medical evacuations in addition to coastal and inshore search and rescue missions.
Coast Guard helicopters also provide HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) to the HSE/National Ambulance Service including inter hospital transfers. The busiest inter hospital transfer routes are from the Letterkenny and Sligo to University Hospital Galway.
By year-end Coast Guard helicopters will have flown in excess of 670 missions, of which 119 were conducted on behalf of the Health Service Executive. Coast Guard helicopter services also include inland searches for missing persons and medical evacuations in support of An Garda Síochána and Mountain Rescue Teams.
The nationwide network of Volunteer Coast Guard units continue to be an integral part of the national Search and Rescue framework. With a membership of circa 1,000 volunteers, the units deliver rescue boat, cliff rescue and shoreline search services coupled with a capacity to support their communities during local emergencies such as inclement weather. These community services were to the forefront during storm Emma in March when major challenges were experienced in reaching essential services. Coast Guard volunteers provided emergency transport to Health Care staff, conducted patient transfers and provided support to isolated homes. Overall Volunteer Coast Guard units were tasked on a total of 1185 separate occasions throughout the year.
Coast Guard Director Chris Reynolds said: “I want to particularly acknowledge the commitment and professionalism of our Volunteer members. In addition to the three core services that they provide they are an integral part of community resilience and continually act as the Eyes and Ears of our RCCs in assessing and responding to any coastal emergency.
The RNLI is categorised as a declared resource to the Coast Guard which means that each individual station can be directly requested to respond to individual incidents. In 2018 the RNLI were requested to launch on 836 occasions.
The Coast Guard attaches particular attention to what is categorises as Lives Saved. *This refers to assistance provided that was it not available would have resulted in loss of life or severe risk of loss of life or protracted hospitalisation. In 2018 the Coast Guard has recorded that in excess of 400 people were categorised as Lives Saved in comparison with 340 in 2017.
Director Chris Reynolds reiterated a core message of raising the alarm in time.
“If you can raise the alarm and you can stay afloat then you have an outstanding chance of being rescued by our world class rescue service.”
“If you see somebody in trouble or if you think they are in trouble at sea, on the water or along the coast Dial 112 and ask for the COAST GUARD.”
They have issued a joint safety message reminding the public to heed simple safety advice when they are out on the water or engaged in any activity along the water’s edge. The two organisations have cautioned that many accidents and tragedies take place involving people who never expected to end up in the water.
There are some key pieces of advice that the RNLI and the Irish Coast Guard ask people to keep in mind when they are around the water over the Christmas and New Year break:
Stay Back – Stay High – Stay Dry when engaged in coastal walks and avoid any unfamiliar routes and be mindful of changes caused by coastal erosion and the risk of trip, slips and falls.
Ensure that pets are kept under control in case they get into difficulty and cause owners to risk their own safety in rescuing them.
Remember to carry a suitable means to call for help such as mobile phone, vhf radio or Personal Locator beacon
If engaged in any boating activities Do Wear an appropriate personal flotation device – it could save a life.
If going out alone, tell someone ashore your plans and what time you expect to be back.
For anybody engaged in a Christmas or New Year swim only participate in an organised swim that has appropriate safety facilities
Always remember if you see anybody in trouble on the water or along the coast or if you think they are in trouble Ring 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.
The RNLI’s ‘Float to Live’ message advises people who fall into cold water unexpectedly to fight their instinct to swim until the cold-water shock passes.
They should pause, and float on their back until able to catch their breath and either call for help or swim to land if it is nearby. The Coast Guard is reiterating its message to Stay afloat – Stay in Contact, meaning that if they can stay afloat and raise the alarm then they have an excellent chance of being rescued.
Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager Gerard O’Flynn said, ‘at this time of year people love to get out and about. Do so safely and act sensibly and wisely and if in doubt shout. Coast Guard services, will be fully operational over the holiday period.”
RNLI Lifesaving Manager Sean Dillon said, ‘It is much easier than people realise to get into trouble in the water. Whatever activity you are doing, make sure you are aware of the dangers, know your limits and do not take risks. Over the previous ten years, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, RNLI lifeboats launched 137 times and assisted 57 people in Ireland. While all the search and rescue services stand ready to help people, being prepared and taking some basic safety advice can avoid an accident or a serious tragedy.’
In conclusion, both Sean and Gerard, wish all RNLI and Coast Guard volunteers, their shore-based support teams and staff, a happy and safe Christmas. Volunteer lifeboat and coast guard crews remain on call over the Christmas period.