Update 5.05pm – Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan has offered the deepest sympathies of An Garda Síochána to the Irish Coast Guard on the loss of their colleague yesterday
“An Garda Síochána was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Caitríona Lucas while carrying out her duties as a volunteer member of the Doolin Coast Guard, yesterday, and, at this time, our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and colleagues.”
Update: 1.00pm – Senior members of the Irish Coast Guard visited Doolin station yesterday (Tuesday) while members later raised the Irish tricolour and Coast Guard flags before lowering them to half-mast in memory of their colleague Caitríona.
Members of the local community including business people dropped into the station during the morning and early afternoon to offer their condolences to Caitríona’s colleagues.
The Irish Coast Guard volunteer who died a rescue boat capsized in Kilkee yesterday was mother-of-two Caitriona Lucas and the first member of the service to die during an operation.
Another member, Jenny Carway, was rescued while a third volunteer named as James Lucey was left trapped on a ledge at the base of a cliff for several hours.
The alarm was raised at around 12.30pm yesterday when three personnel were thrown into the sea from their Delta rigid inflatable boat (RIB) on the western side of Kilkee Bay.
At the time, the Coast Guard personnel had been involved in the search for a man who has been missing since Friday.
Once the alarm was raised yesterday a major rescue operation was mounted with the Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard along with Kilrush and Aran Islands RNLI lifeboats being mobilised.
The crew of the Shannon based search and rescue helicopter Rescue 115 recovered two casualties from the water however efforts to reach the third proved very difficult.
One of the casualty’s was taken to Kilkee Coast Guard station where she was treated by ambulance paramedics before being transported to hospital for further assessment.
After being recovered from the water the second casualty was airlifted to University Hospital Limerick (UHL) in an unresponsive state but was later pronounced dead.
It was confirmed last night that the victim was Caitriona Lucas was a member of the Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard and her husband Bernard is also a member of the service.
Caitriona, originally from Ballyvaughan, lived in Liscannor and was also member of the Search and Rescue Dogs Association (SARDA).
The official Irish Coast Guard Facebook page changed their profile photo to the service logo with a black band through it while the page was flooded with expressions of sympathy.
The Waterford based helicopter, Rescue 117, arrived on scene to take over from their Shannon colleagues after they left for the hospital.
Mr Lucey was trapped on a ledge in a sea cave and conditions were too dangerous to mount a water based recovery. It’s also understood that he had climbed some way up along the cliff face but was hampered by crashing waves.
Kilkee Fire and Rescue Service was also sent to the scene and set up climbing equipment in an effort to reach the casualty by rappelling down the cliff face.
Members of Doolin Coast Guard, specially trained in cliff rescue, also abseiled down to the casualty and remained with him until it was safe to effect a rescue.
With lifeboats and other rescue boats and jet skis standing by, the casualty was winched onto the helicopter at around 5.30pm and flown to hospital. He was said to have been uninjured but exhausted and badly shaken.
The local community in Kilkee has been left stunned by the tragedy.
“I can’t believe this. I was walking the cliff and saw all the emergency services and thought they had found the missing man. I stayed for a while a realised it was more serious than that,” a local woman said.
“We always hear how the Coast Guard risks their lives for others but you never think and always hope that they something like this doesn’t happen. This is shocking altogether,” another onlooker said.The Delta RIB was extensively damaged after being swept into the base of the cliff.
Superintendent Brendan McDonagh, speaking at the scene said: “This is an awful tragedy. The sea conditions today were horrendous and members of the Coast Guard were out searching for missing man when this happened. They (Coast Guard) do an outstanding job even in these sort of conditions.”
Irish Coast Guard spokesman Declan Geoghegan confirmed there would be an inquiry into the tragedy.
“We don’t know if it was a heavy swell or a rogue wave or what happened but we got mayday call at around midday when a Coast Guard boat got into difficulty. We mobilised rescue boats and the helicopter to the scene. They obviously got thrown into the water and unfortunately we lost a colleague. Our other colleagues were rescued.”