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MCIB Initiates Inquiry into River Corrib Rowing Incidents

25th January 2023
Rowing craft with University of Galway students were swept towards the salmon weir, where they were caught by pontoons and capsized due to the strength of the river flow
Rowing craft with University of Galway students were swept towards the salmon weir, where they were caught by pontoons and capsized due to the strength of the river flow Credit: Niall McNelis

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has initiated an inquiry into a recent incident on the river Corrib where up to ten people were rescued after their rowing craft were swept towards the Galway city salmon weir.

The incident was one of two which occurred on the river on January 14th when the river was in full flow and three rowing boats attached to the University of Galway and to Coláiste Iognáid secondary school capsized.

No one was injured, but Labour councillor and chairman of Claddagh Watch river safety group Niall McNelis said the situation involving the university students who were caught on the top of the weir was potentially very serious.

The sport of rowing is exempt from mandatory lifejacket use.

The MCIB confirmed early this week that it decided to carry out an investigation into this incident.

“A full report will be published in due course”, an MCIB spokeswoman confirmed, adding that the board “will not be making any further comment”.

As Afloat reported earlier, both incidents occurred between 11 am and 12 noon on January 14th, with the first being the capsize of an octuple or “eight” rowing craft with students from Coláiste Iognáid or “ Jez” secondary school.

The capsize occurred up river from the weir and across from their clubhouse. All students were rescued by their club safety launches within minutes and taken ashore.

A more serious incident occurred shortly after that when two rowing craft with University of Galway students were swept towards the salmon weir, where they were caught by pontoons and capsized due to the strength of the river flow.

Ten rowers - none of whom are obliged to wear lifejackets due to the sport’s exemption - had to be taken from the top of the weir by club safety launches in very challenging conditions.

The Irish Coast Guard confirmed that its Valentia Rescue Coordination Centre was alerted through the national 112/999 call answering service at 12:08hrs on January 14. It said it was reported that ten rowers were “possibly in difficulty at the weir”.

The Galway Fire Service, An Garda Siochana, Coast Guard Helicopter R118 from Sligo, Galway RNLIlLifeboat and Costelloe Bay Coast Guard unit were tasked, it said.

“During the 112/999 call the caller confirmed all boat occupants had been recovered to the club safety boats responding locally,”the Irish Coast Guard said, and rescue units were stood down.

The University of Galway is compiling an internal report. It said support boats were on the water at the time the two boats capsized and no-one was injured.

“ All rowers were brought safely from the water to the river bank within minutes,” a spokesman said.

“The university is deeply grateful to other rowing clubs for their support and prompt response. We also thank the emergency services for their rapid response,”he said.

He confirmed the university has engaged with Rowing Ireland, the national representative body, and is reviewing all safety measures and precautions which are in place for our rowing club and other river users”.

It said it would cooperate fully with any MCIB inquiry, and would support any initiatives to improve water safety and rescue services on the Corrib.

A spokesman for Coláiste Iognáid said that it was satisfied that all safety procedures were followed when its boat capsized, and said all students were fine and parents were informed.

Speaking on behalf of the Galway water users’ multi-agency group, RNLI Galway operations manager Mike Swan said that a dedicated rescue craft above the weir which was on call “24/7” was essential.

Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club said it supported calls for a dedicated rescue boat, as the nearest service up river is the Corrib-Mask Rescue Service in Lisloughrey, Co Mayo.

Published in MCIB, Rowing
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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