Speeding case against Coast Guard volunteer struck out

Speeding case against Coast Guard volunteer struck out

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Photo: © Pat Flynn 2017

A charge of speeding against and Irish Coast Guard volunteer responding to an emergency call-out in an official vehicle has been struck out by a court in Co Tipperary.

At Nenagh District Court today, deputy officer-in-charge with Killaloe Coast Guard unit Mr Damien Madden, explained how he was responding to a vessel in difficulty at Shannonbridge in Co Offaly when he was detected by a speed van.

The incident, which occurred on July 26th last, happened over 80 kilometres from Killaloe Coast Guard’s base in Co Clare.

Mr Madden had to leave work in Limerick and make his way to the Coast Guard station in Killaloe to collect an emergency vehicle. He explained how it would take him almost two hours to reach the scene after leaving work. He also said the Killaloe unit was only resource that could transport a boat by trailer to launch near the scene.

GoSafe operative Mr Gerard O’Brien outlined how he detected Mr Madden’s vehicle at 1.34pm on the N52 at Ardcroney in Co Tipperary. He said Mr Madden’s Coast Guard vehicle  was detected driving at 71khm in a 50kmh zone.

Mr Madded also explained how he was the only officer and coxswain available to helm the rescue boat on the day. He said remembered it was a warm day and that “there was no other traffic, the road was clear.”

He explained that when the received the fixed charged notice (FCN) he wrote to the fixed charge processing office in Thurles Co Tipperary to explain the circumstances. He was told however that the ticket would not be cancelled as there was “no risk to life” associated with the call he was responding to.

Photo: © Pat Flynn 2017

Mr Madden opted to challenge the matter in court instead.

He told Judge Elizabeth MacGrath that while he was responding to the 999 call he didn’t know all the circumstances. Mr Madden said he was informed by the Coast Guard coordination centre in Valentia that there was a boat aground and there was a man on board. He said he had no information on whether the boat was damaged, had a hole in it or anything else about the incident.

He said the circumstances at the scene, including the weather, could have changed at any time.

He also told the court the Coast Guard had responded to a similar call a week later that was more serious than reported. After being told there was a boat aground, on arrival at the scene Coast Guard volunteers found that two adults and two children had been thrown from the vessel.

After listening to Mr Madden’s evidence and stating, as far as she knew, the Coast Guard was not exempt from the speed limit while responding to emergency calls, Judge MacGrath decided to strike out the case.

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Chief Reporter Pat Flynn has worked as a journalist for almost 30 years. His career began during the late 1980s when, like many aspiring radio presenters of the time, he worked for local pirate radio stations in Clare and Limerick. Pat joined Clare FM in 1990 where he worked as researcher initially and later presented several different programmes including the station's flagship current affairs programme. He was also the station's News Editor and Deputy Controller of Programmes. Despite leaving in 2003 to pursue a career as a freelance journalist, he continues to work with the station to this day. As well as being the Clare Herald’s Chief Reporter Pat is also freelance journalist and broadcaster, contributing to Ireland’s national newspapers and is a regular contributor to national broadcasters.

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