The power of the sea became frighteningly evident yesterday when the wreckage of an Irish Coast Guard rescue boat was recovered following Monday’s tragedy that saw a volunteer lose her life.
41-year-old Caitríona Lucas, a mother-of-two, became the first member of the volunteer service to lose her life when the Delta RIB (rigid inflatable boat) suddenly capsized throwing its crew of three into the sea.
A member of the Doolin unit of the service, Caitríona had been searching for missing Clare man David McMahon when the accident happened.
She was on board the Kilkee Delta RIB along with two members of the local unit. Caitriona’s colleagues Jenny Carway and James Lucey were fortunate to survive the tragedy which has stunned, not only the volunteer search and rescue community, but an entire country.
It was for this country that Caitríona Lucas gave her life doing what she loved to do, and she did so voluntarily.
Three days after the tragedy, members of the Garda Water Unit searched for and recovered debris from the sea where the tragedy occurred.
The crew of the Shannon based search and rescue helicopter hovered overhead directing the Garda crew to debris they had spotted in the water.
In the meantime, a specialist team abseiled down the cliff face to secure the wreckage of the boat which was then lifted by crane to the cliff top.
The salvage operation was coordinated by Operations and Training Officer with Irish Coast Guard John McLoughlin.
Speaking at the scene Mr McLoughlin thanked those who volunteered their services for the salvage effort.
“This salvage operation was not an easy task but we have now recovered the boat. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department and the Director of the Irish Coast Guard are vey grateful to all those who offered their services to undertake this operation.
Our volunteers are very professionally trained and have the best available equipment and technology to do the tough job they’ve chosen to do as volunteers in their community. They do this for the state on a voluntary basis and their service is invaluable,” Mr McLoughlin.
The wreckage and all the recovered debris was removed from the scene for examination as part of the investigation into the incident.
John McLoughlin confirmed that the engine’s black box data recorder was also recovered and handed over to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) for their investigation.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) confirmed: “The HSA has begun an investigation into the fatal accident involving a member of the Irish Coast Guard.”
“Monday was a black day for the service but the Coast Guard community has really rallied together while the local communities in Kilkee and Doolin have also been very supportive.
The firms who undertook the salvage operation did so on a voluntary basis, offering their assistance and not asking for payment. The Irish Coast Guard is very grateful for their efforts,” Mr Loughlin added.
The companies that offered their services for the salvage operation, free of charge, including O’Brien Construction; Mike O’Shea from Work at Height from Dingle, Kerry; Brendan Lynch (local contractor); Terence O’Brien and O’Brien Builders Miltown.