A major search was mounted on Lough Derg on Saturday night after a distress call was heard on the marine emergency radio channel.
The alarm was raised at around 8.15pm when staff at the Irish Coast Guard marine rescue coordination centre on Valentia Island in Kerry picked up a call on the VHF radio channel.
While the communication was broken up and difficult to understand, the caller reported that his vessel was lost and adrift on Lough Derg. Later, Irish Coast Guard staff picked up a second distress call.
The caller gave a detailed description of the vessel including it’s sail number. The caller claimed they had left Garrykennedy on the Tipperary shore and had headed south for about 10km.
The Lough Derg RNLI lifeboat, based at Dromineer, Co Tipperary and the Killaloe (Clare) unit of the Irish Coast Guard were alerted and requested to commence a search.
The lifeboat boat travelled north to Portumna, searching all ports in between, while Killaloe Coast Guard commenced their search at the south end of the lake working their way north.
Coast Guard staff on Valentia Island spent almost two hours trying to make radio contact with the vessel however when no further communication was received, the search was stood down.
It’s still not clear whether the distress call was a hoax or if a boat had been in trouble and made it to harbour safely.
An RNLI spokeswoman said: “The lifeboat crew was given a description of the boat, sails and sail number. The yachtsman said he had left Garrykennedy Harbour and had made way for about ‘ten miles’ and was now uncertain of his position. Valentia Coast Guard reported that after receiving two poor transmissions, on Channel 16 and Channel 61, they were unable to contact the vessel again.”
“Killaloe Coast Guard commenced a search from Killaloe at the southern end of the lake and the Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat searched north from Dromineer, including Kilgarvin, Terryglass, Castletown Harbours and up the Shannon to Portumna Bridge, making enquiries of the boats moored at each harbour,” the spokeswoman added.
When there was no sighting of any vessel adrift the search was stood down.
An Irish Coast Guard spokesman said: “No persons or boat have been reported missing around Lough Derg so it is understood to be a hoax call.”
It’s suspected that the distress call was made from a sheltered harbour which could explain why the communications were so poor.
Earlier in the evening, the Killaloe unit of the Irish Coast Guard went to the assistance of a 35-foot sail boat that had broken down North of Killaloe.
The alarm was raised at 6.45pm and a rescue boat reached the scene within minutes. The troubled boat, with four people on board, was taken under tow and brought back to Killaloe where a land crew were on hand to help tie the boat up safely.