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Displaying items by tag: Coastguard

Galway student Sara Feeney (23) has said she is “overwhelmed” with gratitude for the hundreds of people who searched overnight when she and her cousin Ellen Glynn (17) were swept out to the mouth of Galway Bay on paddleboards last week.

In a Sunday Times interview, Ms Feeney also pays tribute to her cousin, who was due to be released from University Hospital Galway this weekend.

“We didn’t even verbalise what might happen, or what we might both be thinking,” Ms Feeney, who was able to return home on the night of her rescue, says.

“I think if we had panicked at all, things could have been very different. I know if Ellen had panicked, I would have found it very difficult,” she says.

Ellen Glynn, who has also paid tribute to the rescue agencies, volunteers and Claddagh mariners Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan who found them tethered to crab pot floats, says that the sight of meteor showers and phosphorescence on the sea sustained them during the night.

They also sighted a small pod of dolphins off the Aran island of Inis Oírr the following morning.

Former Irish Coast Guard search and rescue pilot Dave Courtney, author of the memoir Nine Lives, says that questions need to be asked as to why the rescue took so long.

"sea-faring gut instinct"

“The whole country rejoiced when the two women were found alive after 15 hours at sea.,” Courtney said, paying tribute to the enormous rescue effort.

“ But tide and search probability computer technology, and three of the country’s four rescue helicopters - the most modern and best equipped in the world, armed with heat-seeking cameras - were no match for the sea-faring gut instinct of Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan,” he said.

The Olivers had noted the wind and “headed like a bloodhound straight to the survivors’ location”, Courtney said.

“The ocean is a cruel place....there was no loss of life in this incident, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned,” he said.

“ The term ‘looking for a needle in a haystack’ is valid except that the FLIR / Forward-Looking Infra-Red camera on the Coast Guard helicopter can see the heat of human life relatively easily in sultry summer weather,” he said.

“Was it used effectively during the search? Were search assets duplicating each other’s efforts, instead of extending the search area as time and tidal drift and wind effect would have necessitated?” Courtney asked.

Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard has said the search for the two women covered a 200 square mile sea area, and said it was using SAR MAP - the US software used effectively by Valentia Coast Guard in 2011 to track the probable location of the crew of the yacht Rambler which capsized in the Fastnet yacht race off West Cork.

The SAR MAP search area generated two scenarios which were used to co-ordinate all assets, including fishing vessels and commercial craft, it says.

It is understood that the helicopters and lifeboats were receiving frequent reports of “targets of interest”, which they had to divert to.

The Irish Coast Guard says that if the two women were not falling under the focused spectrum of the Sikorsky S-92 night sun or FLIR camera they would be “difficult to spot”, particularly as they had no wetsuits to provide an extra heat source.

“ The search was just moving into the south-west of the Inis Oirr sector ...with both aviation and surface assets when the fishing vessel Johnny Ó came upon them. It is highly likely they would have been detected within the following one to two hours as it was daylight,” it says.

More on The Sunday Times here

Published in Galway Harbour
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The director of public prosecutions (DPP) has decided that no criminal charges should be brought in relation to the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas almost four years ago.

As The Sunday Times reports today, her death, the first of an Irish Coast Guard volunteer on duty, prompted two state investigations into the incident off Kilkee on September 12, 2016. A Health and Safety Authority (HSA) inquiry was forwarded to the DPP.

A separate Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report, published two years after the incident, was critical of the Irish Coast Guard’s safety management system, and outlined a number of systems and equipment failures in relation to the Kilkee unit.

The DPP recently informed Bernard Lucas, her husband, that no criminal charges would be brought arising from the HSA inquiry.

Gardai have also confirmed that the DPP has directed no criminal prosecutions will arise from their investigation into the Irish Coast Guard Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Two pilots, Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy, and winch crew Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith died in the crash off the north Mayo coast in March 2017. An HSA inquiry is still ongoing.

Read The Sunday Times here

Published in Coastguard
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Last Thursday and Friday were busy days for Bangor Coastguard on Belfast Lough with an incident on both days.

On Thursday evening the Coastguard and the Police Service investigated reports of concern for a kayaker seen the Ballywalter area in failing light. Ballywalter is a small village on the east coast of Co Down with a long award-winning sandy beach and a small harbour which partially dries out.

By the time the team arrived, it was already dark, and together with their Police colleagues, a plan was put in place. Coastguards searched the beach area while the Police spoke with the first informant and checked the area around the Harbour. The Police Helicopter was also requested but unable to attend, so the Police fixed-wing aircraft was asked to assist.

As one of the team was completing their search, they saw a kayaker round the Harbour wall. After a quick conversation, it was established that this was the person they had been looking for and he was given safety advice and both Police and Coastguards stood down.

The next day (Friday) the team was tasked along with Bangor Lifeboat to a yacht with engine problems between Bangor and Groomsport. They kept visual on the vessel while the Lifeboat set up a tow and headed for Bangor where the vessel and the lifeboat were met in the harbour by Coastguard personnel.

Published in Belfast Lough
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Irish Coast Guard deputy director Gerard O’Flynn has hailed as a “milestone” the publication of the State’s framework for handling major maritime pollution incidents.

The plan released by the outgoing government last Friday (June 26) fulfils long-awaited commitments made after the grounding of the Kowloon Bridge off the west Cork coast almost 34 years ago.

Devastating damage was caused to wildlife and the south-west coast’s marine environment when the 900 ft super bulk carrier with a cargo of iron ore ran aground in a gale on November 22nd,1986, broke into three pieces and sank off Toe Head.

At that stage the 27 crew had already been airlifted off the ship, having reported damage to its steering gear.

There was no public inquiry, and Cork County Council had to bear the full clean up of the cost of 0.5 million

The Sea Pollution Act 1991 makes provision for the prevention of pollution of the sea by oil and other substances, but Ireland is obliged to have a national contingency plan as a signatory to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operative Convention.

Mr O’Flynn said the new plan is a “very important milestone”, which “sets out a framework for interactions between stakeholders” in a major pollution incident.

These stakeholders range from the Government’s transport department to the Irish Coast Guard – responsible for both search and rescue and pollution response – and shipping companies, he said.

“We have a national search and rescue plan, and this new pollution contingency plan is another landmark,” he said.

The new national search and rescue plan was published by former transport minister Shane Ross in July 2019.

He was acting on recommendations in a number of reports – including the Air Accident Investigation Unit’s interim statement on the Rescue 116 helicopter crash of March 2017 which claimed the lives of Irish Coast Guard aircrew Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith, and the Marine Casualty Investigation Board’s report into the death of Irish Coast Guard Doolin volunteer Caitriona Lucas off the Clare coast in September 2016.

The maritime oil and hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) plan sets out a framework for pollution originating from ships, harbours, offshore units or oil/HNS handling facilities and land-based sources.

It covers waters in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and addresses Ireland’s obligations under international convention.

It also provides for requesting assistance from other countries through bilateral and multi-lateral arrangements.

Published in Coastguard
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The rescue services were so busy over the weekend that they have related several incidents together.

A jetskier needed medical assistance after coming off his jetski. Donaghadee Lifeboat brought the casualty from Millisle into Donaghadee harbour and was met by Northern Ireland Air Ambulance, HART Paramedics, NIAS Ambulance and Bangor CRT. The team thanked the Kayakers who went to his aid.

Bangor was the scene when two girls were washed out to sea on paddleboards. And at Millisle it was a false alarm with good intent when a member of the public who did not see the canoe belonging to two males, thought they were trapped on the rocks.

Portaferry Coastguard Rescue

And today (Sun 28th) the team was tasked along with Portaferry Coastguard Rescue and Portaferry Lifeboat to rescue several people stuck on one of the many islands in Strangford Lough. The persons involved had spent the night on the island and had attempted to come back ashore. It was at this point one of the kayaks capsized and they returned to the island. Portaferry Lifeboat brought all nine people back to the waiting Coastguards who carried out welfare checks on everyone.

Belfast Coastguard says “A big thank you to the members of the public who gave our casualties warm drinks”.

Published in Belfast Lough
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An elderly couple had a narrow escape when their car left the road and tumbled over rocks towards the sea at Galway’s popular Blackrock diving tower on Wednesday evening.

Emergency services including the Galway Fire and Ambulance Service, Gardai, Irish Coastguard helicopter and RNLI lifeboat volunteers were alerted after the Nissan Almera reversed over the pavement at Salthill promenade and fell about six metres (20 ft) down towards the beach.

The incident occurred at around 5 pm, just an hour after high tide, but the car did not hit the water. Several units of Galway Fire Brigade managed to free the elderly couple from the car on the rock armour.

The Irish Coast Guard helicopter which was en route from Shannon was stood down when it appeared that the vehicle was not in danger of hitting the water.

The couple was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway. It is understood that their injuries are not life-threatening.

Sgt Vincent Jennings of Salthill Garda Station said that it was a “miracle” that there were no fatalities or injuries.

“The Prom has been very busy, and this was just an hour after high tide,” Sgt Jennings said. He said onlookers gave several rounds of applause when the couple were stretchered up to the ambulance by paramedic staff.

Labour councillor Niall MacNelis, who was leaving a Galway City Council meeting in Leisureland, Salthill just after the incident happened, paid tribute to the Garda and emergency personnel.

“If it had been a warm summer’s evening, this could have been a very serious incident, and we are all glad that the couple survived,” he said.

Efforts were being made by the fire brigade to remove the vehicle from the rocks. Traffic diversions were put in place for several hours in Galway this evening.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The Irish Coast Guard and Water Safety Ireland are appealing to the public to be mindful of the drowning risk associated with the use of inflatable toys in open water.

Their joint appeal calls on parents and guardians never to allow inflatable toys to be used at rivers, lakes or beaches as the devices are vulnerable to the slightest breeze or current and can take a child away from shore and into danger. Equally the temporary loss of such a device could attract children or adults to try and retrieve them from the water and thereby get into a life-threatening situation.

Good weather has already tempted people into using inflatable toys which has quickly led them into danger and the need for our rescue services to respond.

Commenting on their use, Gerard O’Flynn of the Irish Coast Guard pointed to the fact that SAR resources including Coast Guard helicopters, RNLI lifeboats, Coast Guard units and community rescue boat services are no strangers to such rescues, “Our hearts go out the family that recently suffered such a tragic loss and we also mindful of a number of very near misses whereby children were swept out to sea and were rescued following a full scale Search and Rescue operation

Lifeguards trained by Water Safety Ireland have also seen an increase in the use of inflatable toys such as air mattresses, boats and inflatable rings, however, as Roger Sweeney of Water Safety Ireland points out, they are not suitable for use as recreational craft and can be lethal in open water.

“Drownings typically occur when a person overestimates their ability and underestimates the risk”, he said , “The risk that an inflatable toy can take a person out of their depth and out of their comfort zone is very high due to Ireland’s changeable offshore winds and the range of our tides. This is further compounded if the toy deflates and the person tries to swim or paddle a partly deflated toy to safety. Cooler water can quickly cool the muscles needed for swimming and hidden currents can make this swim very difficult and sometimes impossible. These toys provide a false sense of security and should be avoided.

Both organisations have thanked the public for their ongoing support and cooperation with water safety messages and called on everybody to redouble their efforts during Phase 2 of the roadmap for Ireland's easing of the COVID-19 restrictions to ensure that basic safety precautions are observed when recreating on or near the water.

Remember:

  • Inflatable toys are not safe for persons to float upon in open water
  • Never be tempted to swim out after a floating toy
  • Supervise children closely to ensure that they never use inflatable toys in open water
Published in Coastguard
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Air navigation services run by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) have not been adequately resourced and were still suffering from staffing shortages for at least two years after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash, The Sunday Independent reports.

A review for the Department of Transport also calls for a "just culture body" which is "robust" to be implemented as soon as possible to protect pilots and other crew members who make confidential reports on safety concerns.

And it criticises delays in separating the State aviation authority's conflicting functions of safety regulation and commercial operations.

The lack of accurate air navigation charts available to Irish Coast Guard helicopter search and rescue crews was one of the key issues highlighted after the Rescue 116 crash which claimed the lives of Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith off north Co Mayo on March 14, 2017.

The final report into the crash has still not been published as an unidentified stakeholder has been granted a review of the final draft report by Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

In late 2017, the IAA had invited search and rescue and other pilots to help correct aeronautical charts after it conceded charts published three months after the crash were inaccurate, with lighthouses in wrong locations and obscure symbols.

Although the IAA is responsible for providing aeronautical charts under State safety plans, it has said it does not guarantee their accuracy or completeness and disclaims all liability.

The review of the IAA technical and safety performance by Helios and Egis Avia consultants during the second and third quarters of 2019 found the IAA air navigation division staff were having to work "extended hours", as posts could not be filled after one inspector left and one took maternity leave.

The "slow pace" of separating safety regulation from money-making commercial activities within the IAA and the potential workload increase for IAA staff as a result of Brexit are other issues flagged in the review.

For more, read The Sunday Independent report here

Published in Coastguard
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With significant numbers of people expected to take to the water this weekend in England, HM Coastguard is asking everyone to take extra care in extraordinary times.

Boating, swimming and other sea-based activities are now allowed once again in England under the new Government guidelines, but, now more than ever people need to respect the coastline.

In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales the lockdown remains and people should continue to follow the guidance to stay home.

Swimming in the sea is now allowed as a daily exercise in England along with paddle boarding, surfing, windsurfing, rowing, kayaking and canoeing.

Sailing and owners of private boats may also go out onto the water.

But while people are allowed to go out on and in the water, they need to make sure they are safe and protected. Those with private boats and yachts should carry out all the usual safety checks and make sure they have a way to contact HM Coastguard if they get into difficulty, as should everyone visiting the coast and beaches.

In addition, the Government guidelines around social distancing should continue to be observed by everyone in the UK.

Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard said: ‘In England, now more than ever, people need to respect the sea and the coast. Whether you’re local or not, whatever your ability or experience in your chosen sport or leisure activity, the sea can still catch you out and be unmerciful when it does.’

‘The majority of beaches will not be lifeguarded. If you get into trouble call 999 and ask for the Coastguard and we will come to your aid. But coronavirus hasn’t gone away and we all need to follow the rules. Remember your choices might put people, including yourself and frontline responders, at risk. Take extra care in these extraordinary times.

In England #StayAlert In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, nothing has changed. Give the coast a miss. #StayHomeSaveLives

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The Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) has revised its current advisory that members of the public should not go afloat for recreational purposes in the lead into the first phase (May 18th) of the Government ‘Roadmap for reopening society and business’. The Coast Guard has issued a statement thanking 'the public for their cooperation in observing the travel and social distancing guidelines as they impact on maritime and coastal activities'.

Since April 9th, the Irish Coast Guard and RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) both asked the public not to take part in any water-based activity on or in the sea, while the current national emergency restrictions are in place. Both organisations highlighted the importance of minimising the risk to Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer crews, Helicopter crew and other front line emergency services, through being unintentionally exposed to COVID-19.

Under Phase 1 of the Roadmap to Recovery (commencing 18 May), people are permitted to engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activities on an individual basis.  Very small groups – a maximum of four people - will be permitted to engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activity but only within a 5km travel distance and where social distancing of 2 metres can be maintained.  Members of the public should use caution if engaged in water sports,  realising there are no lifeguards on the beaches, and many swimming spots are closed off to prevent gatherings, i.e. social distancing.

The easing will permit short sails and boating trips subject to boats returning to home ports, under the guidelines.

The phased easing of restrictions will result in more people participating in coastal and water-based leisure activities that are within the 5km radius. The Coast Guard is emphasising the importance of continuing to observe current Covid -19 guidelines, as well as attending to their personal safety when engaging in any water-based or coastal activity.

Many clubs and organisations have also provided their members with detailed guidelines to be followed with the commencement of phase 1 of the roadmap 

Coast Guard Search and Rescue services including those provided by RNLI and Community Rescue Units (CRBI) continue to be fully operational and on-call 24/7.

Gerard O’Flynn on behalf of the Coast Guard stated; “It is recognised that people will want to get out for a break and take to the water if they are living or exercising near the coast or inland waters. The public are again reminded to follow Government instructions, which are focused on protecting frontline services and saving lives. Observe the current 2x5 rule i.e. 2M physical distance & 5KM travel distance.”

Arrangements continue to be in place for Coast Guard services including Helicopters and Volunteer Coast Guard units to assist HSE, Gardai and Local Authorities in the provision of community and other logistical support during the current emergency.

Published in Coastguard
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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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