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A European pilots’ organisation has expressed alarm at the delay in publishing the final report into the loss of four air crew in the Rescue 116 helicopter crash off the Mayo coast four years ago.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, European Cockpit Association (ECA) president Captain Otjan de Bruijn has also questioned why Ireland had adopted a “rare procedure” where an aviation accident investigation can be re-examined before publication.

An air accident investigation must be published to ensure key safety lessons can be learned “swiftly”, Capt de Bruijn said, and he has urged release of the report “without delay”.

Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and winch team Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith died after their Irish Coast Guard Sikorsky S-92 helicopter crashed at Blackrock island off the north Mayo coast on March 14th, 2017.

The four Dublin-based helicopter crew were providing “top cover” communication for the medical evacuation of a crewman from a British-registered fishing vessel off the west coast.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) issued a preliminary report and a series of interim reports, and a final draft report was given to families and stakeholders in late 2019, with a 60-day period for submissions.

However, its publication was put on hold by a request in January 2020 by an unidentified stakeholder for a review, which was granted by Ryan’s predecessor, Shane Ross.

The ECA president said that the final report was due in January 2020, and it “is an extremely long delay for publishing a report”

Capt de Bruijn said that during these four years, “possible safety-critical flaws have remained unaddressed – something we are quite alarmed about”.

“Any deficiencies that have been identified in the accident investigation must be made public, out in the open so they can be fixed swiftly. In the interests of passenger safety, we urge the Irish AAIU to release the report without delay,” he said.

“We are not aware of any other similar cases across Europe of a re-examination of the technical work of an independent technically qualified organisation by a body with limited expertise in aviation accident investigations,” Capt de Bruijn said of the review board option.

“This rare procedure could be a slippery slope allowing for undue influence over the investigation process and its findings, and clearly has resulted in an unhelpful delay in the publication of the report,” he said.

“Let us not forget that the final report contains safety-critical recommendations that are valuable – and potentially life-saving – lessons for the aviation system in and beyond Ireland,” he said.

The Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) has already questioned the decision to include a review in the Irish legislation, and said the review “does not comply with the standards and recommended practices laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)”.

The Department of Transport said, “the review board is independent in its work in accordance with the 2009 Regulations and the timeframe for the board to carry out the re-examination is a matter for the chairperson to determine”.

Read more in The Times here

Published in Coastguard
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The fishing vessel Ellie Adhamh, the seven-person crew of which were evacuated by Coast Guard Helicopters on Saturday evening, has sunk in approximately 80m of water over two miles North of the Bull Rock, at the entrance to Kenmare Bay.

Valentia Coast Guard who coordinated the operation monitored the vessels situation overnight as it drifted in a northerly direction.

A local Tug hired by the owners was on scene all morning evaluating options to tow the vessel to a place of safety.

A second local Tug was also proceeding to the scene but it was evident from early morning that the vessels condition was deteriorating.

Sinking fast - The bow of the fishing vessel Ellie Adhamh seconds before the trawler sank in approximately 80m of water over two miles North of the Bull Rock, at the entrance to Kenmare BayThe bow of the fishing vessel Ellie Adhamh seconds before the trawler sank in approximately 80m of water over two miles North of the Bull Rock, at the entrance to Kenmare Bay. See vid below

A Coast Guard spokesperson expressed relief that there was no loss of life and acknowledged the professionalism of all who had been involved in the operation, as Afloat reported previously including Naval Service ship LE George Bernard Shaw, Castletownbere RNLI, Coast Guard Helicopter crews, owners and their representatives.

Published in Coastguard

Coastguards across the UK are warning those planning to go anywhere near the coast or beaches over the Easter period to be on their guard. 

Conditions at sea or on coastal land can change very quickly and unexpectedly, making it unpredictable and dangerous.

The warning to be prepared is supported by a couple who found themselves cut off from safety when a cliff unexpectedly collapsed across the beach they were walking on.

People are being reminded to also check COVID guidance for the area they live in before making plans as well as taking care if they’re going to the coast or beaches for day trips.

For one couple from Dorset, a quiet afternoon walk turned into a nightmare when part of a cliff collapsed cutting them off from safety.

Their walk along the beach at Charmouth had started off well – the tide was out and the shingle beach was wide. 

But they have been retelling the moment when they had to call 999 and ask for the coastguard and warning how easy it is to be caught out. 

With a cliff fall blocking their way back to the car park and safety and their only other option – going through the sea – even more dangerous as they would have been swept away, they had only one decision they could make.

They said: “We didn’t want to make the situation worse than it already was by putting ourselves in further danger and therefore called 999 and requested assistance from the coastguard.”

The couple was winched to safety by search and rescue helicopter. They were told that another half an hour and the tide would have covered the beach where they had found themselves trapped.

They said: “Afterwards you question whether there is anything you could have done differently but we are not daft and we are not the kind of people to take unnecessary risks. This sort of thing could happen to anyone and is a stark reminder of why you always need to have your wits about you at the coast. 

“More than ever, we now always make sure our mobile phones are fully charged before we head out and that we are aware of tide times.”

Director of HM Coastguard Claire Hughes said: “Never, ever think it won’t happen to you. We’ve heard stories from so many people, some of whom know their coastlines and tide times well, who’ve been out for walks or who are strong swimmers and experts in their watersports who have found themselves suddenly needing help because something has changed.

“Regardless of how well you know the coast, or how experienced you are in your chosen sport, the sea can still catch you out, the cliffs can prove treacherous and even a momentary lapse of concentration can put you in difficulty. 

“We will always respond to those in need but all we ask is that you think twice about what you do and where you go.”

If you get into trouble at sea or on the coast call 999 and ask for the Coastguard and we will come to your aid. But coronavirus hasn’t gone away and we all need to follow the rules.

Published in Coastguard
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Tributes have been paid to Irish Coast Guard winchman Philip Wrenn who has won a prestigious award for his role in rescuing two Italian brothers from the Atlantic off the Aran island of Inis Mór two years ago.

Wrenn, CHC Ireland winch team member of the Irish Coast Guard Rescue 115 crew based at Shannon, won the Billy Deacon search and rescue memorial trophy 2020.

He was presented with it for his bravery in rescuing brothers Giovanni and Ricardo Zanon in very challenging conditions in 2019.

The Zanon brothers were visiting Poll na bPéist or the “Worm Hole”, the naturally shaped sea pool cut out of limestone on the west of Inis Mór, when they fell some 20 metres into the Atlantic.

Rescue 115 was tasked to the scene, and Wrenn and winch operator Ciarán McHugh worked as a team to take the two men from the sea.

Wrenn was tending to the more injured of the two men when a series of waves almost washed all three into Poll na bPéist’s cauldron.

Wrenn and McHugh were interviewed about for the rescue for the Midas Productions Irish Coast Guard documentary by Darina Clancy for TG4 television’s Tabú series.

“We went off into a holding pattern....then we saw this set of waves coming offshore...from about a mile away,” McHugh recalled.

“It was like you left someone off the side of the road to wait for the bus, and then the bus comes and slaps them,” McHugh told Tabú.

The two Italians were treated at University Hospital, Galway. They were reunited with Wrenn and McHugh for the documentary, which was broadcast on TG4 in March, 2020.

The trophy conferred on Wrenn is named in memory of late Bristow Helicopters winchman Billy Deacon, who died during a Maritime and Coastguard Agency search and rescue (SAR) helicopter mission in 1997.

It is awarded to winchmen and/or winch operators working in the British and Irish search and rescue regions, and the RNLI lifeboat operations director chairs the award committee.

Rescue 118 winch team member Gary Robertson won the award in 2017 for his rescue of a fisherman who had become tangled in a rope off Arranmore island, Co Donegal in April, 2016.

The fisherman’s six-metre vessel had sunk and he was clinging to a lifebuoy, when the Sligo-based helicopter was scrambled by Malin Head Coast Guard on April 9th, 2016.

“I am accepting this award on behalf of the whole team on Rescue 115. As a team, we work together to execute a rescue and I am only one member of that team,” Wrenn said.

Minister of State for Transport Hildegarde Naughton said Wrenn had demonstrated “a level of professionalism and commitment that I have no doubt is a great source of pride not alone to his immediate family but to anybody who is involved with search and rescue”.

She said the award not only honoured him but the “extraordinary work of our Coast Guard”.

Irish Coast Guard acting director Eugene Clonan said that Wrenn’s “selfless act of bravery exemplifies the actions of all Coast Guard activities in this area along with the county council lifeguards and declared resources of the RNLI and Community Inshore Rescue Service. “

CHC General Operations Manager Ireland manager Robert Tatten said the award – a piece of bog oak sculpted by Brendan Collum entitled “Entwined” –was very appropriate.

It “reminds us that all our lives are entwined, even with strangers we may not have yet met,” Tatten said.

“Philip saved two people he had never met at Inis Mor without thought for his own safety, but his experience and the intense training he and all CHC staff go through enabled him to make that rescue safely,” Tatten added.

Published in Coastguard
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Portaferry Coastguard Rescue team was joined by the Bangor team for joint mud and water rescue training in Strangford Lough on Sunday, 28th February.

The Dorn at Ardkeen was the location for the mud training. The word Dorn, from the Gaelic word for narrow channel, refers to the channel which connects several sheltered bays to the Lough near Ardkeen on the eastern side of the Lough.

Cook Street Quay in Portaferry town was used for the water rescue training.

Mud rescue training in Strangford LoughMud rescue training in Strangford Lough

The Portaferry team said, "It is essential that we keep our skills up to the highest level possible, so when required to conduct a technical rescue, we provide a first-class service".

Belfast Coastguard Rescue Team responded yesterday (8th February) to reports of a car which had left the road near Newtownards Sailing Club, just a few miles outside the town on the loughshore road to Portaferry There were three people inside.

A coastal rescue officer from Portaferry was one of the first on the scene and had started casualty care before the arrival of a Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) Paramedic. No serious injuries were reported.

PSNI and Coastguard personnel from Bangor helped with traffic management as well as checking that the vehicle was not leaking any fluids that could pollute the area. The team was free to stand down as recovery was arranged for the vehicle by the Police Service.

As reported in afloat.ie on 14th January, another vehicle left the same road a few miles farther south.

Irish Coast Guard volunteer Bernard Lucas has called for a re-investigation into the cause of his wife Caitriona’s death off the Clare coast in 2016.

In an interview with today’s Sunday Independent, Mr Lucas says he finds as “shocking” the criticisms of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) in a report commissioned by maritime lawyer Michael Kingston.

The report by Capt Neil Forde of Marine Hazard Ltd said the MCIB was “not fit for purpose”.

It was submitted by Mr Michael Kingston to several Oireachtas committees, including the Transport and Communications Network committee which sat on Friday last.

Ms Lucas (41), a librarian, mother of two, and advanced coxswain, had offered to help out the neighbouring Irish Coast Guard Kilkee unit in a search for a missing man on September 12th, 2016.

She hadn’t expected to go to sea, but the unit was short a crew member. She died after the Kilkee rigid inflatable boat (Rib) capsized in a shallow surf zone. Two other crew members survived.

Last summer, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided that no criminal charges should be brought in relation to the incident after a report was forwarded to it by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

The unpublished HSA report was one of two separate investigations. The second report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) proved so contentious that it had to be published in two parts, and the responses to the draft were longer than the report itself.

In a robust response, the Irish Coast Guard described the MCIB report as “flawed” and “misleading”, and argued that it was a “significant leap” to draw wider conclusions about safety standards based on one “tragic accident”.

In his submission to the draft report, Bernard Lucas queried why the investigation did not address failure to find personal locator beacons and other equipment issues, including the loss of helmets by three crew and the failure of lifejackets to inflate.

A postmortem identified a trauma to the side of Ms Lucas’s head at a point where it should have been protected by her helmet.

Last summer, the MCIB’s authority was questioned in a European Court of Justice judgment which found it is not independent as its board included the Department of Transport secretary-general, or his or her deputy, and the Marine Survey Office (MSO) chief surveyor. These two post holders have recently stood down.

The report commissioned by Mr Kingston claims the MCIB failed to investigate certain incidents which it has a statutory duty to inquire about, it questions its resources and independence.

It also says the MCIB inquiry into Caitriona Lucas’s death is “riddled with inaccuracies” – starting with the wrong location for the incident.

These inaccuracies were not corrected, even when highlighted in responses to the draft report, because MCIB investigators” simply have not had the resources required to do the job properly”, Mr Kingston told the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Networks committee hearing on Friday.

Capt Forde’s analysis also questions why the MCIB did not also investigate a previous incident which occurred in similar circumstances to that of Ms Lucas’s death, where an Irish Coast Guard Dingle unit RIB capsized in a surf zone off Inch, Co Kerry in August 2014.

The MCIB said in response that it does not comment on published reports issued on the conclusion of investigations, and said it was not the purpose of an investigation to attribute blame or fault – but to avoid other casualties occurring.

“Any person may report a marine accident to the MCIB directly and details are on the website,”it said in response to questions about its failure to follow up on the Dingle incident.

“All on-going investigations are noted on the website and members of the public may submit evidence about an investigation at any time should they so wish,” it said.

“The board may also re open investigations where it receives evidence to warrant that course of action,” it said, but it was “not in receipt of any requests to re-open any investigation, nor is it in receipt of any objections by any interested parties to the recommendations it has made”.

“The members of the MCIB recognise that some investigations arise from very tragic circumstances and that any investigation may cause added distress,” it said.

Read more on the Sunday Independent here

Published in Coastguard

The search for a missing fishing vessel with three people on board continues off the coast of North Wales.

HM Coastguard has been co-ordinating an extensive search to find the vessel since just after 10 am today (28 January) after it failed to return when it was expected.

Rhyl, Bangor and Llandudno Coastguard Rescue Teams have been sent along with RNLI lifeboats from Rhyl, Llandudno, Conwy and Beaumaris.

The HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Caernarfon and a fixed-wing Coastguard aircraft have also been assisting with the search.

North Wales Police are also involved and broadcasts have been made to alert vessels in the nearby area. Despite the extensive search to find the vessel and its crew, nothing has been found so far.

Duty Controller for HM Coastguard Rob Priestley said: “We are continuing to search a wide area to try and find this vessel with all the assets we have at our disposal. We’re also asking other vessels in the area to keep a look out for anything that might also assist the search.”

Published in Coastguard
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In an end of year commentary, the Coast Guard has highlighted, that despite the impact of Covid-19, 2020 has proven to be a relatively busy year.

Overall, the Coast Guard coordinated 2643 incidents in comparison with 2490 incidents in 2019. Activity over February, March and April was the lowest recorded for each of those months over recent years but noticeably picked up in May with August and September proving to be exceptionally busy.

464 incidents were recorded in August in comparison with 369 for August of 2019 and 307 incidents recorded in September with a corresponding figure of 239 in 2019.

Coast Guard Director Eugene Clonan said that the key challenge this year was to ensure the 24/7 delivery of Coast Guard SAR services, as coordinated by the three Rescue Coordination Centres in Malin Valentia and MRCC Dublin and responses delivered primarily by Coast Guard’s own volunteer sector, its contracted Helicopter service, RNLI and Community Inshore Rescue services.

"In 2020, the Coast Guard recorded that 391 individuals were categorised as Lives Saved"

“I want to thank all the men and women that make up our SAR community, for the discipline and commitment they have demonstrated in maintaining service availability through the most challenging of times”

The Coast Guard attaches particular attention to what it categorises as Lives Saved i.e. assistance provided that, prevented, loss of life, severe risk to life, or protracted hospitalisation.

In 2020, the Coast Guard recorded that 391 individuals were categorised as Lives Saved.

During 2020 the Coast Guard noted an increase in two activities that gave rise to safety concerns; increases in the number of incidents involving persons using inflatable devices (Lilo’s / Dinghy’s etc) on beaches and inland waterways during summer months, and increased participation in open water swimming in autumn and winter. Coast Guard acknowledges that safety messages regarding open water swimming have been well heeded with most participants adhering with basic safety precautions.

Public safety messaging continues to be promoted via the revamped www.safetyonthewater.gov.ie website and other social media platforms in conjunction with stakeholders from the Marine Safety Communications Sub-Group (Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland, RNLI, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Commissioners of Irish Lights and Irish Sailing)

Coast Guard recorded a total of 72 drownings in 2020 a reduction on 2019 figures and is working closely with Water Safety Ireland in monitoring drowning risks and trends.

Coast Guard Helicopter services, provided under contract by CHC Ireland, operate day and night services out of Bases at Sligo, Shannon, Dublin and Waterford. In 2020 CHC flew a total of 781 missions. In addition to Search and Rescue services these missions include 24/7 emergency medical support to the island communities. Coast Guard also provides Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) support and inter hospital transfers services to the HSE including emergency paediatric transfers to UK.

Volunteer Coast Guard units

Volunteer Coast Guard units provide a combination of Rescue Boat, Cliff rescue, Shoreline search capabilities, and emergency community support in conjunction with the other emergency services. The 44 units were tasked to a total of 1270 missions this year. Services included Covid-19 related transport support to HSE. Further development in the use of Small Unmanned Aircraft drone systems (UAVs) has equipped Coast Guard units to enhance its search capability. By the end of 2021 Coast Guard anticipates that it will have 9 units with UAV search capability.

The RNLI is categorised as a declared resource to the Coast Guard, which means that each individual station can be directly requested to respond to individual incidents. RNLI lifeboats were tasked to 783 missions while Community Inshore Rescue Boats responded to 84 mission. During the year the Coast Guard and RNLI agreed a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out its long-standing arrangements for SAR response and coordination.

Dunmore East RNLI in county Waterford tows home a sailorDunmore East RNLI in county Waterford tows home a sailor. The RNLI is categorised as a declared resource to the Coast Guard, which means that each individual station can be directly requested to respond to individual incidents

Arising from the publication of the 2019 National Search and Rescue Plan (NSP), the National SAR Committee submitted its first annual report on the National SAR Plan (NSP) to the Minister for Transport in July. It details progress on the phased implementation of the NSP as well as the work of the committee itself and other new structures including the National SAR Consultative Committee, the SAR Regulatory Forum and the SAR Health and Safety Forum. It also reviews the SAR related activities of the three designated SAR coordinators i.e. Coast Guard, the Irish Aviation Authority and An Garda Síochána.

National Maritime Oil & HNS Spill Contingency Plan

In June of this year the National Maritime Oil & HNS Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) was published. It establishes a national framework and strategy to coordinate marine pollution preparedness and response. It addresses oil and HNS pollution occurring within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), whether it originates from ships, harbours, offshore units or oil / HNS handling facilities and land-based sources. It has been developed with due regard to the International Convention, EU Directives, and operational guidelines. The NMOSCP includes guidance documents and standard operating procedures and their appendices which address key elements of effective preparedness and response.

MRCC Dublin

MRCC Dublin serves as the national single point of contact for processing of COSPAS-SARSAT 406 MHz Satellite Beacon Alerts generated by Irish registered beacons worldwide (EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon; PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons) and ELTs (Emergency Locator Transmitters), including any beacon alerts from foreign-flagged vessels or aircraft operating within the Irish SRR (Search & Rescue Region). During the year a total of 192 satellite beacon alerts were processed, many of which were the result of false alerts due to the mishandling or incorrect disposal of beacons.

"During the year a total of 192 satellite beacon alerts were processed"

In preparation for future developments in VHF Data Exchange systems (VDES) the Irish Coast Guard Engineering Branch completed equipment updates to several of the VHF hilltop sites around the country. The most noticeable difference to the mariner is the change of working VHF channels. These changes are published in marine notice 61 of 2020.

Raise the alarm and stay afloat

The capacity to raise the alarm and stay afloat, are central to the prevention of drownings at sea or on inland waterways. The Coast Guard’s core safety message Stay Afloat – Stay in Touch; highlights the importance of never engaging in any commercial or recreational boating activity without wearing a fully serviced Life Jacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD), coupled with a capacity to raise the alarm via means such as a VHF radio, Personal Locator Beacon, EPIRB or mobile phone. This should be supported by informing shore-based colleagues of intended activity and anticipated return time. Mobile phones should not be considered as a suitable substitute or be relied upon as the only means of emergency communication at sea. Phone coverage at sea is limited and unreliable. Mobile phones are also highly susceptible to failure due to water ingress.

Published in Coastguard
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The RNLI and the Coast Guard are appealing to the public to exercise caution when participating in any activity on and near the water during the Christmas and New Year period and at all times to be mindful of the restrictions in place to deal with the COVID pandemic. Many traditional Christmas and New Year swims which ordinarily had safety measures in place have been cancelled. Accordingly, anybody planning such activity should check up to date guidance and ensure that they have made appropriate safety arrangements.

The second half of 2020 saw a significant increase in water-based incidents placing extra demands on Search and Rescue providers including Coast Guard and RNLI volunteer crews. Mindful of the increased levels of participation in open water swimming both organisations are highlighting the risks of suffering cold water shock, which is a very real danger for anyone entering water which is 15°C or below. Average sea temperature around Ireland at this time of year are just 6-10°C. This can pose a risk of hypothermia, even for the most experienced of open water swimmers.

The top safety tips from the Coast Guard and the RNLI for open water swimming are:

  • Always check the weather forecast and understand the local effects of wind, tides and currents. 
  • Never swim alone and if possible, have somebody ashore who is familiar with your plans and can observe your progress.
  • Only swim in sheltered areas with which you are familiar and swim parallel to the shore.
  • Stay within your depth – know your limits including how long to stay in the water
  • Ensure that you are visible from the shore. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap or use a tow float to increase your visibility in the water.
  • Wearing a wetsuit is advisable to help stay warm.
  • Acclimatise to cold water slowly to reduce the risk of cold-water shock.
  • Get warmed up afterwards. Wrap up well in extra layers of clothing
  • If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • Tell someone else where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

As the year draws to a close, thanks have been paid to the men and women involved in search and rescue for their incredible service throughout the year. Volunteers have been called out to help at all hours of the day and night and they have been on the frontline of saving lives and keeping people safe.

Irish Coast Guard, Head of Operations Gerard O’Flynn said: ‘We wish to say a special thank you to everybody involved in SAR for their commitment and service in these extraordinary times with a special thank you to the volunteer members of the rescue services.

He added: People love to get out and about over the Christmas and New Year period. For those who have an opportunity to go on coastal walks always remember to Stay Back Stay High Stay Dry – and this year please be especially mindful of Covid related restrictions. Open water swimming this time of the year is only for experienced participants and never ever swim alone.’

RNLI Water Safety Lead Kevin Rahill added: ‘RNLI and Coast Guard volunteers have played an enormous role this year in keeping people safe as they took to the water in greater numbers. We wish to thank everyone involved in search and rescue and their families and employers who support our volunteers.

‘No one goes into the water in the expectation of needing to be rescued but we are asking anyone considering going for a swim to understand the dangers and not take unnecessary risks so they can have a good time, safely. It is important to respect the water and there are a number of things you can do to help ensure you have an enjoyable and safe time such as not swimming alone, staying in your depth and knowing how to warm up properly afterwards, which sounds obvious but is crucial to avoid any delayed effects of the cold and hypothermia.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
Page 3 of 52

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