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Six crew members from Newcastle RNLI in County Down have been recognised for their courage, determination and teamwork in bringing the crew of a racing rowing boat to safety after it capsized off Ardglass Harbour in June last year.

Coxswain Gerry McConkey, mechanic Shane Rice and crew members Lochlainn Leneghan, Declan McClelland, Karl Brannigan and Declan Barry have all received a framed RNLI Chief Executive commendation for their efforts that saw them launch their all-weather lifeboat and go to sea for 10 hours in weather conditions that deteriorated to gale force nine winds and rough seas.

As Afloat reported at the time, the volunteer crew were requested to launch the Leonard Kent, at 7.15 am on 26 June 2022 to go to the aid of the crew of a racing rowing boat that capsized 12 nautical miles east of Ardglass Harbour. Weather conditions at the time were poor, with a Force 7 southerly wind and rough seas. Conditions then deteriorated following the launch, with weather increasing to a force 9 southerly wind and high seas.

On arrival at the scene at 9.24 am, the volunteer crew assessed the situation and decided a tow was necessary to bring the vessel’s crew to safety. Such were the conditions at sea that it took three attempts before a tow was successfully established.

In his commendation, RNLI Chief Executive Mark Dowie said: ‘With courage, determination, and excellent teamwork, the casualty vessel was located. A tow was established, and the vessel was brought to the safety of Ardglass Harbour during a service that lasted almost 10 hours.’

Speaking of the commendations, Darren Byers, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, said: ‘This is a fitting recognition of the crew’s efforts during a challenging call out that saw them spend almost ten gruelling hours at sea in difficult weather conditions. Our volunteers are highly skilled and train for all eventualities, and that was certainly put to the test during this service – I congratulate the crew on a richly deserved commendation.’

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Newcastle RNLI’s inshore lifeboat, Eliza, and all-weather lifeboat, Leonard Kent, launched on Thursday, (24 August 2023) to assist a man who took ill on Murlough beach.

At approximately 1.40 pm, Belfast Coastguard requested assistance from Newcastle RNLI. The RNLI’s lifeguards and Coastguard teams from Newcastle and Kilkeel were already with the man providing medical assistance.

At 1.49 pm, under the helm of Lochlainn Leneghan and with crew members Trez Dennison and Ciaran Leneghan, the inshore lifeboat launched and made its way towards the beach.

The decision was made to launch the all-weather lifeboat and at 1.54 pm under the command of Coxswain Gerry McConkey, the Leonard Kent launched and travelled towards Murlough to assist. Onboard were mechanic Shane Rice, navigator Niall McMurray and crew members Andrew Lynas, Michael McDowell and Brendan Rooney.

The weather and sea conditions were fine, allowing for a short passage to the scene, with both lifeboats arriving within minutes.

The inshore lifeboat arrived first and the crew assisted RNLI lifeguards and Coastguard to stabilise the casualty. It was decided the safest way to transport the casualty was to take him onboard the inshore lifeboat and then transfer him onto the all-weather lifeboat, which was approximately 200m offshore. The casualty was then conveyed back to Newcastle lifeboat station.

At the station, the man continued to receive first aid until he was transferred in the care of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service on arrival.

Speaking following the call out, Daniel Curran, Newcastle RNLI Deputy Launching Authority, said: ‘We would like to extend our best wishes to the casualty we looked after today for a speedy recovery and thank our RNLI lifeguards and our colleagues from the Coastguard and ambulance service for what was a great multi-agency response and effort.

‘Our volunteer crew are always ready and trained for all types of callouts. And train regularly using various training scenarios where both lifeboats work together. Today was a successful operation between our volunteer crew, both those at sea and onshore, our lifeguards who work on Murlough beach and the Coastguard teams.’

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Newcastle RNLI’s lifeboat crew launched both their all-weather and inshore lifeboats yesterday (Wednesday, 26 July) at 3.08 pm following a request from HM Coastguard. A 36ft yacht with five people onboard, including two children, had reported that their equipment had failed and they were drifting five miles east of Ardglass.

First to launch was the station’s all-weather lifeboat. On arrival at the scene, a short time later, the lifeboat crew observed that the casualty vessel was, in fact two miles west of St. John’s Point and was in danger of drifting onto rocks. Conditions were moderate to rough, with a force 5 to 6 wind, and visibility was less than two nautical miles.

The lifeboat crew immediately checked on the welfare of those onboard, some of whom were showing signs of fatigue and sea sickness. A decision was made that the lifeboat would bring the vessel under tow to the safety of Newcastle Harbour.

As the All-Weather lifeboat approached Newcastle Harbour Coxswain, Gerry McConkey, requested the assistance of the station’s inshore lifeboat to provide support on the last part of the journey and to tow the vessel into harbour. The yacht was then towed into Newcastle harbour, where it was secured, and all on board brought ashore and to the lifeboat station, where the crew were able to provide casualty care. Newcastle Coastguard team were also on scene to provide care, and paramedics arrived to check the group over and ensure they were well enough to leave.

Speaking on the callout, Newcastle RNLI Launching Authority Daniel Curran said, ‘It was a busy day on station yesterday with a lot of lifeboat crew being present for a training exercise and scheduled inshore lifeboat maintenance. This ensured an extremely fast lifeboat launch, and the crew were on scene with the casualties shortly after raising the alarm.

Commenting on the callout, Newcastle RNLI Launching Authority Daniel Curran said, ‘The location of the yacht, along with the loss of their navigational equipment, meant that the group were in serious danger of drifting onto rocks if they had not managed to raise the alarm. Conditions were not pleasant for those on the boat, and it was a tough few hours for them. I’m delighted, with such an excellent turnout on station yesterday for our training, that we were able to assist this group and bring them back to land safely in an extremely fast time. The call for help was raised through a radio onboard the yacht, and having a means of calling for help is vital when out on the water.

The all-Weather lifeboat crew for the callout were Coxswain Gerry McConkey, Mechanic Shane Rice, Mark Mitchel, Andrew Lynas, Trez Dennison and Karl Brannigan. The inshore lifeboat crew were Helm Locky Leneghan and Brendan Rooney and Ciaran Leneghan.

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Newcastle RNLI in Northern Ireland has this week come to the aid of four people in separate call-outs over a 24-hour period.

The volunteers pagers first sounded at 4.10pm on Wednesday (12 July) when Belfast Coastguard requested the crew to go to the aid of two people on a broken down jet ski in Newcastle Bay on the Co Down coast.

The inshore lifeboat, Eliza, helmed by Locky Leneghan for the first time and with crew members Trez Dennison and Ciaran Leneghan onboard, launched immediately and made its way to the scene.

Weather conditions at the time were described as good with a Force 2 northerly wind.

Once on scene, the lifeboat crew assessed the situation and found that both people were safe and well. It was decided take the two onboard the lifeboat where they were checked over and reassured. They were then brought back to Newcastle Harbour with the jet ski under tow.

Then on Thursday (13 July), the crew were once again paged and requested by Belfast Coastguard to launch and go to the aid of two people on a 19ft boat that had encountered engine problems close to Ballyhoran Beach.

The all-weather lifeboat launched under coxswain Gerry McConkey with five crew members onboard and made its way to the scene, reaching the boat at around 5.25pm in a Force 4 southerly wind.

After assessing the situation, the crew decided to take the two onboard where they were checked over and reassured. The lifeboat crew then worked to establish a tow before bringing the boat to the nearest safe port at Ardglass Harbour where it was handed into the care of Portaferry Coastguard.

Speaking following both call-outs, Sean McConkey, Newcastle RNLI launch authority said: “It has been a busy 24 hours for the station but the crew have been delighted to help.

“We want to wish all four well; the jet ski crew did the right thing in having a means of communication and raising the alarm, that is the right thing to do, and the people onboard the boat [on Thursday] were able to make contact with the coastguard immediately when they realised there was a problem, allowing for a prompt launch of the lifeboat.

“We also want to commend our own Locky Leneghan who had his first call-out on Wednesday since becoming a helm. Locky has been on the lifeboat crew for two years and has worked hard in recent months to complete his training and assessments to make this milestone which is a wonderful personal achievement for him and great news for the station.”

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Newcastle RNLI has launched a festive 10K, 5K and one-mile fun run to help save lives at sea.

Appealing to the seasoned athlete as well as families and fun runners wanting to get some exercise while getting into the Christmas spirit, the event will take place on Sunday 11 December around the Castlewellan Lake on a mainly flat terrain.

The 10K and 5K events will be chip-timed with prizes for the winners and an iconic RNLI all-weather lifeboat medal for all participants.

The one-mile Christmas dash, meanwhile, is open to everyone and suitable for those bringing families and those with prams and/or pets.

While fun runners won’t be timed, they too will receive a Christmas medal for their efforts. There will also be prizes for the most festive costumes.

For those who can’t do the run on the day but would still like to take part, there will be a virtual option. Simply do the 10K in your own time, send Strava/Garmin or equivalent evidence of completion to RNLI community manager Nuala Muldoon at [email protected] and you will receive a medal in the post.

All participants, whether running on the day or putting in the steps at home, will receive a medal for their efforts | Credit: RNLI/NewcastleAll participants, whether running on the day or putting in the steps at home, will receive a medal for their efforts | Credit: RNLI/Newcastle

Speaking ahead of the event, Muldoon said: “This is a wonderful Christmas event with options to be competitive in either the 10K or 5K, to enjoy the fun run with family or friends, or do it in your own spare time virtually.

“We want people to really get into the Christmas spirit by dressing up, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying a well-deserved mince pie and some Christmas fun at the finish line.

“All proceeds raised from the Castlewellan event will go to Newcastle RNLI. Every time a RNLI crew launches, they are determined to save every one. But they can’t do that without the generosity of the public who support events such as these and raise vital funds.

“By taking on the Castlewellan 10K/5K or one mile fun run, participants are helping to keep our volunteers safe. Every penny they raise makes a difference. It helps the charity to recruit and train volunteers and could fund the kit they need to protect themselves. It helps ensure a lifeboat is ready when the call comes and it enables our safety advice to reach as many people as possible so they can stay safe by the water.”

In 2021, lifeboats at Northern Ireland’s 10 stations launched 297 times bringing 370 people to safety, seven of whom were lives saved.

During the lifeguard season, RNLI teams located on 11 beaches along the Causeway Coast and in Co Down responded to 330 incidents, coming to the aid of 384 people, one of whom was a life saved.

To register for the Castlewellan 10K/5K and one-mile festive fun run on Sunday 11 December, click HERE.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Newcastle RNLI came to the aid of a lone sailor early this morning after his 20ft boat got into difficulty and ran aground at the entrance to Dundrum inner bay.

The volunteer crew were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat shortly after 9.30 am following the report from Belfast Coastguard that a vessel with one person onboard had run aground.

The lifeboat, helmed by Thomas Davis and with three crew members onboard, was deployed and swiftly made its way to the scene in a southerly Force 4 wind. The lifeboat arrived on scene to a strong swell in the bar mouth.

The crew assessed the situation and found the sailor to be safe and well. They then made a decision to tow the boat off the sand and back to the nearest safe port which was the vessel’s moorings in Dundrum.

Speaking following the call out, Johnny Whyte, Newcastle RNLI Deputy Launching Authority said: ‘The sailor was found to be safe and well but he did the right thing raising the alarm for help when he knew he was difficulty.

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Portaferry RNLI in Northern Ireland was requested to launch by Belfast Coastguard to reports of a fishing boat aground at St John’s Point early on Friday morning (5 August).

The volunteer crew’s pagers sounded at 6.24am and they made their way to St John’s point at Ardglass, where they arrived just before 7am and were joined by Newcastle RNLI with their all-weather and inshore lifeboats.

They found the 16m fishing boat, with a crew of four, was aground on a rocky coastline off St John’s Point.

Portaferry’s inshore lifeboat crew checked the fishing boat for damage before taking the four male adults onboard the lifeboat and bringing them to safety at Ardglass Marina.

Once on land, the casualties were transferred into the care of Newcastle Coastguard Rescue Team.

Commenting on the callout, Portaferry RNLI helm Chris Adair said: “This was an early morning callout for our crew and thankfully it had a successful outcome.

“We also wish to express our thanks to our colleagues in Newcastle RNLI who launched both their lifeboats and travelled to the scene. We were grateful to have them there.

“With conditions fair, the four casualties were brought to safety quickly and we wish them well.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

In the first of two callouts in quick succession on Saturday evening (30 July), Newcastle RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat was called to assist a broken-down boat at Gunns Island.

The volunteer crew answered their pagers at 5.57pm and launched the lifeboat in smooth seas but with poor visibility, mist and a Force 1-2 wind.

Before arriving on scene at Gunns Island northeast of the Co Down lifeboat station on Northern Ireland’s east coast, it emerged the Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Team had already assisted the crew of the boat and got them ashore. Arrangements were made to have the boat recovered later.

Then at 6.56pm the lifeboat was diverted to a second call to reports of a vessel in distress between Killyleagh and Whiterock in Strangford Lough to the north.

The crew attended the area and conducted a thorough search but nothing was found. Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Team carried out their own shore search and again nothing was found.

The volunteer crew were stood down at 8.50pm and returned to Newcastle Lifeboat Station, where the lifeboat was made ready for the next callout, at 11pm.

Shane Rice, RNLI coxswain for Newcastle RNLI said: “Thankfully both these callouts ended well. The persons who raised the alarm did exactly the right thing by dialling 999 and asking for the coastguard.”

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Newcastle RNLI rescued five rowers early yesterday morning (Sunday 26 June) after they got into difficulty in challenging weather conditions 23 nautical miles northeast of Ardglass.

The crew from the GB Row Challenge had left Tower Bridge London on 12 June to circumnavigate Great Britain and to collect environmental data.

The vessel had been monitored throughout the night by HM Coastguard with frequent radio transmissions. During a check at 7 am on Sunday, the rowers explained they had capsized and righted themselves but were unable to row.

Newcastle RNLI was requested to launch their all-weather lifeboat at 7.15 am. Weather conditions at the time were poor with a Force 7 southerly wind and very rough seas. The lifeboat launched under Gerry McConkey and with crew members Shane Rice, Lochlainn Leneghan, Declan McClelland, Karl Brannigan and Declan Barry onboard. Conditions deteriorated following the launch with weather increasing to a Force 9 southerly wind and high seas.

On arrival at 9.24 am, the volunteer crew assessed the situation and decided a tow was necessary to bring the vessel’s crew to safety. Such were the conditions at sea that it took three attempts before a tow was successfully established. Newcastle RNLI then towed the vessel to the nearest safe port at Ardglass, a passage that took two hours.

The rowers were met by Newcastle Coastguard, and one was checked over by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.

Speaking following the call out, Newcastle RNLI Coxswain Gerry McConkey said: “We would like to wish the rowers well following their experience yesterday after they got caught by the poor weather. I would also like to commend our volunteer crew who used their skills and training to work in what were extremely challenging conditions that deteriorated during the call out to successfully bring the five people to safety.”

As previously reported on, another crew of round-Britain rowers were rescued by Red Bay RNLI on Saturday (25 June) amid “hugely challenging conditions” at sea off Northern Ireland.

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In the first of two callouts on Saturday (4 June), Newcastle RNLI’s volunteer crew came to the aid of two people on a RIB some 12 miles offshore.

Pagers sounded just after 7.10am on Saturday morning following a report that two of the six people on the RIB, which was on passage to the Isle of Man from Ardglass, were suffering with severe seasickness.

Weather conditions at the time were challenging, with a four-metre sea swell and an east-northeasterly Force 5 wind.

The all-weather lifeboat, under coxswain Niall McMurray, immediately made its way to the scene off the Co Down coast in Northern Ireland to meet the RIB.

On arrival, the lifeboat crew assessed the situation before taking the two sick passengers onboard. The crew then checked them over and reassured them as they were then brought back to Ardglass Harbour, where they were handed into the care of Newcastle Coastguard.

Later that day a second call came shortly after 6pm when concerns were raised for a pleasure craft close to Maggies Leap. However, this turned out to be a false alarm and the volunteer crew were stood down shortly after arriving at the station.

Speaking following the callouts, McMurray said: “Conditions at sea were challenging on Saturday morning but we were glad to be able to bring the casualties safely ashore when they were unwell.

“The second call transpired to be a false alarm, but I would like to commend my fellow crew members who responded so quickly again, ready to respond and go to the aid of others.

“As we head into the summer months, we want to remind everyone to enjoy themselves, but to also make sure you stay safe and know what to do in an emergency. It is important that anyone visiting the coast understands the risks of the environment. It can be very unpredictable, particularly during early summer when the risk of cold water shock significantly increases, as air temperatures warm but water temperatures remain dangerously cold.

“If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live: lean back, using your arms and legs to stay afloat, control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety. In a coastal emergency, call 999 or 112 for the coastguard.”

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Every Year Ireland's Search & Rescue Services deliver emergency life saving work on our seas, lakes and rivers.

Ireland's Water Safety Agencies work hard to provide us with the information we need to keep safe, while enjoying all manner of water based activities.

There's no better fun than getting out on the water but being afloat is a responsibility we all need to take seriously.

These pages detail the work of the rescue agencies. We also aim to promote safety standards among pleasure boaters, and by doing so, prevent, as far as possible, the loss of life at sea and on inland waters. If you have ideas for our pages we'd love to hear from you. Please email us at [email protected]

Think Before You Sink - Wear a Lifejacket

Accidents can happen fast on water and there may not be time to reach for a lifejacket in an emergency therefore don't just carry a lifejacket - wear it; if it's not on you, it can't save your life.

Irish Water Safety's Safe Boating Alert:

Check condition of boat and equipment, hull, engine, fuel, tools, torch.

Check the weather forecast for the area.

Check locally concerning dangerous currents and strong tides.

Do not drink alcohol while setting out or during your trip.

Carry an alternative means of propulsion e.g. sails and oars or motor and oars.

Carry a first aid kit on board and distress signals (at least two parachute distress rockets, two red hand flares).

Carry a fire extinguisher, a hand bailer or bucket with lanyard and an anchor with rope attached.

Carry marine radio or some means of communication with shore.

Do not overload the boat - this will make it unstable.

Do not set out unless accompanied by an experienced person.

Leave details of your planned trip with someone ashore - including departure and arrival times, description of boat, names of persons on board, etc.

Wear a Lifejacket at all times.

Keep an eye on the weather - seek shelter in good time.

In Marine Emergencies, call 999 or 112 and ask for Marine Rescue.

Lifejackets Checklist

Ensure Cartridges have not been punctured and are secured firmly.

Ensure all zips, buckles, fasteners and webbing straps are functioning correctly and adjusted to fit the user.

Check that fitted lights are operating correctly.

Ensure that Automatic Inflation devices are fully serviced and in date.

Check that the valve or lifejacket is not leaking.