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In a long-range mission coordinated by the Malin Head Coast Guard Coordination Centre, the Dublin-based Coast Guard Helicopter R116 successfully evacuated a seriously ill fisherman from a Norwegian vessel 160 miles west of Erris Head, Co. Mayo. The evacuation, carried out in collaboration with the UK and Norwegian Coast Guards.

The Shannon-based Coast Guard Helicopter R115 was also deployed as a secondary support asset, shadowing R116 throughout the mission.

The rescuers battled strong winds and rough seas to reach the stricken vessel and airlift the casualty onboard.

After being winched aboard R116 at 12:50pm, the fisherman was immediately transported to University Hospital Galway, where he was transferred into the care of the HSE.

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In a joint operation between the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in Valentia and the UK Coast Guard, a casualty from a merchant vessel was successfully rescued from 120 miles off the South West Coast.

The mission was carried out by the Shannon-based Coast Guard Helicopter R115, which received top cover support from a UK Coastguard fixed-wing aircraft.

The operation was carefully planned by Valentia and UK colleagues, who had been collaborating since late yesterday afternoon as the vessel transited from the Atlantic.

The casualty was safely landed at Cork Airport and then transferred to Cork University Hospital by ambulance.

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The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today.

Following a significant investment by the Department of Transport of €5.2m, the volunteers at the Bonmahon Coast Guard unit will now take up residency at their new facility. Over the past three years, the Bonmahon Coast Guard Unit has attended 89 incidents, and this new facility will enhance the Coast Guard activities undertaken by the unit.

(Above and below) The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today in the presence of Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan and local TD Mary Butler(Above and below) The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today in the presence of Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan and local TD Mary Butler

(Above and below) The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today in the presence of Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan and local TD Mary Butler

As Afloat reported previously, the first sod was turned on the building in September 2022.

Minister of State Chambers commented: “The men and women of our Coast Guard undertake incredible, lifesaving work - often in the very worst conditions - and it is essential they are supported in their role, which is at the very heart of our coastal communities."

"The opening of this €5.2m station house, which is the first new Coast Guard building since 2014, marks the ongoing commitment by the Department of Transport in developing the volunteer service. The Coast Guard, through the building programme is committed to the ongoing construction of rescue stations around the coast."

"The new station provides state-of-the-art facilities, including training rooms, operations rooms, offices, garage space, welfare facilities and vehicle parking. It will serve the Bonmahon Coast Guard unit and the public for many decades to come.”

The new Bonmahon Coastguard station provides state-of-the-art facilitiesThe new Bonmahon Coastguard station provides state-of-the-art facilities

Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan said:

“On behalf of my colleagues in the OPW, I am pleased to announce that the construction of the new Coast Guard station in Bonmahon is now complete. This purpose-built facility will provide the Unit and volunteers with modern accommodation and significantly improved storage facilities."

“The commitment and dedication of the volunteers is second to none, and I am delighted that this new facility will assist them in delivering this invaluable service along the South East Coast.”

As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822.

Ahead of presenting the tokens, Minister Chambers said:

“These tokens are a symbol of appreciation for the work the volunteers do in search and rescue. And as the final unit of the 44 units to be awarded these tokens, I am delighted it coincides with the opening of this new station.”

(Above and below) As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers (left) presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822(Above and below) As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers (left) presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822

(Above and below) As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers (left) presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822

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As the inquest into the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas continues, the court has heard how she was both fastidious and dedicated.

Health and Safety Authority (HSA) inspector Helen McCarthy told the coroner John McNamara and jury that she had seen Ms Lucas’s Irish Coast Guard logbook during her time with the Doolin unit.

“I have never seen anything quite so meticulous,” she told the Limerick coroner John McNamara at Kilmallock courthouse.

Simon Mills, senior counsel for the Department of Transport and Irish Coast Guard, said Ms Lucas was “an absolutely fantastic member of the Coast Guard”.

A senior officer with the Irish Coast Guard’s Kilkee unit told the third day of the inquest on Wednesday that its D-class rescue craft could have been on scene within ten minutes if she had the trained crew to launch it.

Orla Hassett, Kilkee Coast Guard deputy officer-in-charge (OIC) and a paramedic with the National Ambulance Service, also said that numbers in the Kilkee unit had dwindled so much that they had to seek help from “flanking stations” – including the Doolin unit, which Ms Lucas was a volunteer with.

Responding to questions from marine expert Michael Kingston, representing the Lucas family, Ms Hassett said she had informed Irish Coast Guard management the previous March (2016) of “escalating issues” which could affect rescue taskings due to “inter-personal” relations.

She said that Kilkee volunteer numbers had fallen from 30 in 2010 to 12 by 2013, and “four very experienced members” left in the weeks before the incident.

Ms Lucas (41), an advanced coxswain with Doolin Coast Guard and mother of two, died after the Kilkee Coast Guard Delta RIB she was helping out with as crew capsized during a search for a missing man on September 12, 2016.

She was the first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to lose her life during a tasking.

A consultant pathologist Dr Teresa Laszlo told the inquest that cause of death was due to drowning, but said that a skull injury which could cause temporary loss of consciousness could have been a contributory factor.

HSA inspector Ms McCarthy confirmed that her employer had to seek legal advice before it could start its investigation, which delayed it by nine months, and she did not have immediate access to Ms Lucas’s personal protective equipment (PPE).

The HSA was able to establish that a Coast Guard RIB was a place of work under existing legislation, and that the Irish Coast Guard has a duty of care to all its staff and volunteers.

PPE was given to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB ), which did permit her to photograph Ms Lucas’s drysuit but she could not take it in evidence, she said.

She did not see Ms Lucas’s helmet, and was sent a “cutoff” of the Irish Coast Guard logo from the drysuit by the Irish Coast Guard. The court heard the drysuit was disposed of in a skip.

Ms McCarthy said that no risk assessment had been prepared of the area where the capsize occurred in Lookout Bay, which can be affected in certain conditions by unexpected waves in neighbouring Intrinsic Bay.

She said her investigation also showed that there were ongoing issues with the VHF radio on board the RIB that capsized, the coxswain was not trained for this position, according to Irish Coast Guard records, and personal locator beacons worn by the three crew failed to function.

Ms Lucas had been conscious in the sea for 17 minutes after the capsize, the inquest heard earlier this week.

The inquest continues.

Read the Irish Examiner here

Published in Coastguard

Over seven years after her death off the Clare coast, the inquest into the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas resumes today in Kilmallock court, Co Limerick.

The Sunday Independent reports that the full inquest is expected to hear that her helmet and lifejacket still cannot be produced by the Irish Coast Guard, in spite of requests by her family and by representatives of two separate State investigations.

The location of her drysuit is also an issue. Ms Lucas, a 41-year-old librarian and mother of two, died after a Kilkee Coast Guard RIB capsized during a search for a missing man on September 12, 2016.

The highly experienced member of the Doolin Coast Guard had been assisting the neighbouring unit at Kilkee in the search when the capsize occurred. Two others on board the RIB were rescued.

Ms Lucas was the first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to lose her life during a tasking.

Her family say that acquiring her drysuit for independent examination is critical, given reported issues with Irish Coast Guard equipment in recent years. Shortly after her death, a drysuit worn by one of Ms Lucas’s colleagues had filled with water during a training exercise.

It is understood that video footage recorded by a local Civil Defence unit of a rescue attempt in the minutes leading up to her death has been provided to Ms Lucas’s legal team for the first time.

It has been made available for the full inquest, resuming today before Limerick coroner John McNamara at Kilmallock court and is expected to run for a number of days.

Read The Sunday Independent here

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Former Director of the Irish Coast Guard and former Head of the European Mission to Somalia, Chris Reynolds, recently announced his new role as a Team Leader for a maritime security project.

The project will primarily focus on maritime enforcement and the Coast Guard in Malaysia, and Reynolds has been selected to lead the team responsible for its implementation.

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The Department of Transport says it was notified by CHC Ireland about a “safety stand down” at search and rescue (SAR) helicopter bases on Friday.

The department said it is “actively engaged with all stakeholders, including CHC” to “enable the smooth transition” to a new contract.

It was responding to the decision by CHC Ireland aircrew to go “off-line” for an hour at lunchtime yesterday, amid concerns about future employment  when Bristow Ireland takes over the Irish Coast Guard SAR contract.

“Lack of confirmation re continuity of employment, under TUPE Regulations, for CHC staff has led to elevated levels of stress amongst staff and therefore the safety stand down is necessary at this time,” CHC Ireland had said.

The department said it was informed by CHC that “the interruption would be for a maximum of one hour at any base and was intended to enable CHC to conduct staff briefings in relation to the transition from the existing contract to the next generation aviation contract”.

The department said that “established arrangements for such interruptions will apply with regard to response to any incident that might arise”.

“The contract for the next generation Coast Guard contract was awarded to Bristow Helicopters and was signed on August 11th, 2023,” it said.

CHC Ireland is currently pursuing a legal challenge, following the Minister for Transport’s decision to award a new ten-year SAR contract for the Irish Coast Guard to Bristow Ireland.

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Agencies have issued a warning to the public regarding maritime safety during the current warm weather in Ireland.

The Irish Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland, and the RNLI urge the public to pay attention to personal safety and follow safety guidelines when engaging in water and coastal activities.

Sea temperatures have reached a seasonal high, and maritime agencies are concerned that many people will be tempted to take a late summer swim.

These agencies are especially worried since nine people drown on average every month nationwide. Therefore, they advise the public to be mindful of the following advice during the current spell of warm weather:

  • Never swim alone and ensure that somebody ashore is monitoring your activity.
  • Only swim in areas with which you are familiar.
  • Swim within your depth and stay within your depth.
  • Where possible choose lifeguard protected beaches. Lifeguards will be patrolling blue flag beaches throughout the weekend. If you are swimming elsewhere, swim in areas that are known locally as safe and where there are ringbuoys present for rescues.
  • Ask for local knowledge to determine local hazards and safest areas to swim. Pay attention to any safety signage.
  • Always supervise children closely and never leave them alone near water.
  • Never use inflatable toys in open water as a gentle breeze can quickly bring a person away from shore.
  • Make sure that the water’s edge is shallow shelving so that you can safely enter and exit.
  • The air temperature is warm but open water is cooler than air – avoid extended stays in the water as your muscles will cool, making swimming more difficult.
  • Alcohol is a factor in one third of drownings. Do not mix it with water activities.
  • To escape a rip current, swim parallel to the shore and then swim back ashore at an angle.
  • If you see somebody in trouble in the water: SHOUT – REACH – THROW
  • SHOUT to calm, encourage and orientate them;
  • REACH with anything that prevents you from entering the water (clothing/stick);
  • THROW a ringbuoy or any floating object to them.

If you experience difficulty in the water, FLOAT TO LIVE. Tilt your head back with your ears submerged, relax and try to control your breathing. Move your hands to help you stay afloat.

When boating, always wear a correctly fitting lifejacket or Personal Flotation Device and have to hand a VHF radio and a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof pouch.

If you see somebody in Trouble in the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, dial 112 or use VHF radio Channel 16 and ask for the Coast Guard.

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The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) is seeking guarantees from Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan that pilots and winch operators flying for the Irish Coast Guard will remain in employment once the contract transfers from CHC Ireland to Bristow.

As The Irish Times reports, Ialpa maintains that the EU Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) rules apply to the contract.

Under these rules, those 85 air and winch crew already working for the State’s search and rescue service should be able to keep their jobs and seniority once the new operator takes over.

Ialpa is part of trade union Fórsa, and its national secretary Katie Morgan, confirmed to the newspaper that the union had also written to Bristow seeking the same assurances.

Bristow has advertised for captains and first officers for the Irish Coast Guard aviation service, which Mr Ryan has signed the 670 million euro contract for from 2025.

As Afloat reported earlier this week, CHC Ireland is continuing to pursue a legal challenge to the validity of the contract.

The Department of Transport said it hopes there will be “an orderly and seamless transfer of operations between both contractors” and said it recognised “the professionalism and dedication of all personnel engaged in the provision of this essential State service”.

Bristow Ireland told the newspaper there was a lengthy lead-in time before the new contract began, and it was seeking expressions of interest in a small number of posts.

Read The Irish Times report here

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Tributes have been paid to Toni (Patricia) Ryan, an experienced scuba diver and founding member of the Howth Harbour Coast Guard unit who has died at the age of 71.

Ryan participated in hundreds of Coast Guard call-outs in the north Dublin Bay area, training in cliff climbing and applying her scuba diving experience to coastal rescues.

As Coast Guard colleague Louis O’Moore said at her funeral, she was a “pivotal figure in the history of the Irish Coast Guard in north Dublin” from the time she joined the Howth unit in 1999, and she played a key role in the unit’s administration.

“Beyond the daily tasks and responsibilities, she was a touchstone for many of us,” O’Moore said, describing how she was regarded as the “mammy of the unit”, providing support, wisdom, encouragement and chat and counsel for those who needed it.

Howth Coast Guard officer in charge Colin Murray, who has also paid tribute to her key role, recalls that she took her camper van out to cliff locations during long searches where it became a hub for cups of tea and sustenance.

Dalkey Scuba divers members Mary Patterson and Aisling O’Connor have clear memories of her active involvement in their club, and how her relaxed approach to life made her a “natural diver” and ideal diving buddy.

“Toni took to diving like a duck to water,” Patterson said.

Toni (Patricia) Ryan was an active member of Dalkey Scuba diversToni (Patricia) Ryan was an active member of Dalkey Scuba divers

“She was a very active member of the club, taking part in the weekly dives around Dalkey island and the Muglins, and coming away on club weekends west, to places like Killary fjord and Kilkee,”she said.

“She was truly a "bubbly character", genuinely upbeat and always smiling. Looking back on it now, she obviously had great support from family and friends...Scuba diving is not an inclusive child-friendly pastime,” she noted.

“She left Dalkey to continue diving nearer to home with Aer Lingus Divers, and, around the same time got herself a campervan,” Patterson said.

“ I would bump into her every couple of years, in Howth, where she was a member of the Coastguard and in various places along the west coast in the campervan, where she would be diving, snorkelling or just hanging out and enjoying herself with her dive club friends,” she said.

“The Coastguard photo of her really captures the essence of Toni: practical, willing to get dug in and ............that smile,”Patterson said.

Dalkey Scuba Divers member Aisling O’Connor said that she had many memorable dives with Ryan on weekends away on the west coast.

“She had a small campervan, and so loved the club weekends,” O’Connor said.

“She was so easygoing, above and below the surface, soaking up nature, which she was passionate about,” O’Connor said.

Among her many rescues with Howth Coast Guard was that of a father and two sons, aged ten and two years respectively, who capsized from their kayak in Baldoyle estuary in windy conditions on the May bank holiday weekend of 2007.

Toni (Patricia) Ryan newspaper article

Toni (Patricia) Ryan newspaper article

Ryan, first coxswain Declan McQuillan and second coxswain Keith Plummer were out training on the Howth Coast Guard rigid inflatable boat (RIB). Due to several sandbanks in the area, the unit had a window of just 20 minutes before bringing all three casualties safely ashore.

Ryan already had many responsibilities when she volunteered for rescue. Her husband, Brendan was killed in a car crash at the age of 32, when her son Ian was six, her daughter Emma was four, and her youngest child, Shane, was just five months old.

The couple, who were childhood sweethearts growing up in Phibsborough, were both motorbike enthusiasts. Her husband ran a motorbike shop in Bray, Co Wicklow for a time, while she commuted to her job in the Bank of Ireland in Cabinteely on a Yamaha twin motorbike.

They moved to Bayside, Sutton, and acquired the camper van to take the young family to road races all over the country.

After she found some of her husband’s diving gear at home shortly after his death, Ryan took up diving with Dalkey Scuba Divers and played tennis with Sutton Lawn and Trackside Tennis clubs, becoming the first ladies singles champion at Trackside that same year.

She travelled to all over the world on scuba diving trips, latterly with Aer Lingus Diving Club. As her son Ian recalled at her funeral, her favourite Irish spot was Inishbofin, Co Galway, due to the welcoming atmosphere at Day’s Hotel.

She bought a second camper van in the 1990s, taking her children angling, and there was nothing she couldn’t fix, according to her daughter Emma, who says her mother once told her she would have loved to study engineering.

Around 2001, she took her own mother, then in her early eighties, and her daughter Emma in a hired camper down the west coast of North America.

Later in life, she studied at the National College of Ireland and took a job in her fifties as clerical officer in the Courts Service, working in the fines office. She volunteered for St Michael’s House service for people with disabilities for many years, and was a volunteer for swimming events at the Special Olympics in Ireland in 2003. Her family said this meant so much to her as her younger brother, Paul, had Down Syndrome.

She retired in 2017, and her youngest son, Shane, died that year. Once again, in spite of her grief, she was determined to live her best life. She was extremely close to her eight grandchildren, and encouraged her daughter Emma and her own three children to become involved in watersports through Howth Sea Scouts.

Ryan began spending more time in Ballyheigue, Co Kerry, where she took up golf, swam almost every day in the Atlantic, and went to cookery classes and became very involved in the community in the west Kerry village.

The late Toni (Patricia) RyanThe late Toni (Patricia) Ryan

She had a strong faith, and at her funeral, where Margaret Brennan sang, she was blessed with seawater taken from the Irish Sea at Rush by Fr Kit Sheridan of Bayside.

Howth Coast Guard unit members were her pallbearers at the family’s request. Murray, her former officer-in-charge, has paid tribute to “all of the enthusiasm and experience she brought to the unit” and has described her as “irreplaceable”.

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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.

FAQs

While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset

 

While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

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