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Record Year for Rescues as People Turn to Coast & Waterways During Covid-19

28th October 2020
The busiest lifeboat station has been Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, with nearly 100 call outs for this year so far, according to the RNLI The busiest lifeboat station has been Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, with nearly 100 call outs for this year so far, according to the RNLI Photo: RNLI/Facebook

Rescue agencies are reporting a record year for incidents on the water as thousands of people turned to the coastline, lakes and rivers during Covid-19.

The Irish Coast Guard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland have all been under pressure to comply with Covid-19 protective measures and to cope with the large number of emergency alerts.

A total of 500 people were rescued by lifeguards this season, compared to 260 last year.

The last time figures were this high was in 2013, when there were 430 rescues.

There were also no confirmed cases of lifeguards testing positive for the Covid-19.

Water Safety Ireland (WSI) has recorded the lowest number of accidental drownings, at 37 to date, compared to 62 accidental drownings in 2019.

The RNLI said its lifeboat crews have been “exceptionally busy”, with 730 call outs to date this year compared to just over 1,000 launches in the Republic last year.

Dun Laoghaire RNLI is busiest

The busiest station has been at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Co Dublin, with nearly 100 call outs for this year so far, according to RNLI Lifesaving Lead for Ireland Owen Medland.

Both organisations had to put special Covid 19 avoidance measures in place for volunteers and lifeguards employed by local authorities.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly is calling for publication of an Irish Coast Guard analysis of one of the most high profile rescues – that of paddleboarders Sara Feeney (23) and Ellen Glynn (17) in Galway Bay on August 13th last.

Ms Connolly is among those who have paid tribute to Claddagh fisherman Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan for their rescue of Ms Feeney and Ms Glynn after 15 hours at sea. She said, however, that "lessons needed to be learned" about the search pattern in the inner bay, rather than out towards the Aran islands, and co-ordination of volunteers onshore.

In a Dáil reply to a question tabled by Ms Connolly, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the initial search was focused along the northern shore to ascertain if they were attempting to get ashore or had got ashore.

He said the RNLI Galway lifeboat was tasked within three minutes of the initial report at 10.05 pm and the RNLI Aran lifeboat was tasked at 11.19 pm.

He said the Shannon based Coast Guard helicopter was tasked to the scene at 11.02 pm and was recorded as proceeding at 11.25 pm.

Mr Ryan said the search was moving to the south-west of Galway Bay and the Aran Islands, with aerial surface and coastal searches off the islands on the morning of their rescue, and a member of the public alerted Valentia Coast Guard to a possible sighting after 11 am on August 13th, he said.

Visibility had been very poor in the early part of the day with fog at sea till mid-morning.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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