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Clifden Lifeboat Rescues Missing Spear Divers On St Patrick’s Day Callout

19th March 2018
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Clifden Lifeboat Rescues Missing Spear Divers On St Patrick’s Day Callout Photo: RNLI/Clifden

#RNLI - Minutes after participating in the local St Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday 17 March, Clifden RNLI joined a full-scale search and rescue operation for two spear divers reported missing.

Clifden’s all-weather and inshore lifeboats were tasked alongside Achill RNLI, the Sligo-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 118 and the Cleggan Coast Guard Unit in the search for the two men that had left Rossroe pier that morning in a small inflatable boat to go spear fishing on the north side of Killary Harbour. The men had not been since that morning.

At 1.12pm, Clifden RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat Fisherman’s Friend was prepared for launch with coxswain Alan Pryce, mechanic Robert King, navigator Owen Hayes and crew members Tom Davis, Kieran Folan and David Coyne.

The D class inshore lifeboat Celia Mary was transported by road to Rossroe and was crewed by helm James Mullen and crewed by Brian Ward, David O’Reilly and Ian Shanahan. Shore crew volunteer Fergal Conneely drove the Land Rover with the inshore lifeboat in tow to launch at Rossroe pier.

Clifden’s inshore lifeboat shortly after arrived on the scene joining Rescue 118. The crew were briefed by the local fisherman who had reported the spear divers missing.

When he was out fishing about 90 minutes previously, he had seen them spear fishing on the north side of the bay with a small inflatable with an outboard engine. However, he hadn’t seen them or their inflatable since, and as their van was still on the pier, with the weather deteriorating, he decided to call for assistance.

Weather conditions had a north-easterly Force 5-6 wind as Rescue 118 were conducting an aerial search of the bay. The lifeboat crew then spotted a small inflatable with two people onboard trying to hang onto a barge.

Clifden RNLI helm James Mullen said: “I informed Rescue 118 of the possible sighting and they proceeded to the area with us. When we arrived on scene, the two men informed us that they were the two missing spear divers. 

“Their engine had broken down and they had tried to swim the across the bay with their boat but it had become swamped. Their legs had cramped and they were both exhausted. We towed them back to the pier at Rossroe and helped them recover their boat at 2pm.”

Clifden RNLI lifeboat operations manager John Brittain added: “The inshore D Class lifeboat Celia Mary, which was just named in a ceremony last year, has once again proved how much of a valuable asset it is to our station. 

“We are delighted to have been able to respond and bring these people to safety and are also very thankful for the vigilance of the local fisherman who raised the alarm and potentially avoided a much worse outcome today.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, Howth RNLI launched its all-weather lifeboat to reports of an upturned kayak spotted in rough seas off the nose of Howth.

A member of the public, while out walking on Howth Head, spotted what appeared to be a yellow upturned kayak just off the nose of Howth in very rough water and raised the alarm with the Irish Coast Guard, sending them a picture taken with their smartphone.

Howth RNLI was immediately tasked to investigate, with crew pagers sounding at 5.45pm and the lifeboat launched within 12 minutes. Weather conditions saw a very rough sea state in Force 6-7 easterly winds.

Despite the poor conditions, the kayak was quickly located and brought aboard the lifeboat. It looked like it had not been used for quite some time and had been adapted to support a floating structure. The lifeboat completed a search of the area and returned to base.

Speaking following the callout, Howth RNLI station mechanic Ian Sheridan said: “We have to compliment the member of the public for their quick action. While in this case it was thankfully a false alarm, the accuracy of their report to the coastguard allowed us to find the reported vessel and conduct a search.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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