A family of five has been rescued from a burning boat on Lough Derg in Co Galway this afternoon.
Watch officers at the Irish Coast Guard’s marine rescue sub centre on Valentia Island in Kerry mounted a rescue operation shortly after midday after receiving a report of a vessel on fire at the northern end of the lake.
The Lough Derg RNLI lifeboat and Killaloe unit of the Irish Coast Guard were alerted and requested to proceed to the location off Castle Harbour, south of Portumna. Both volunteer groups dispatched their rescue boats to the scene while Killaloe Coast Guard also sent team members by road.
The Shannon-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 115, was also tasked to the incident while local authority fire crews from nearby Portumna, ambulance paramedics and Gardaí also responded to the incident.
Coast Guard incident coordinators also issued a message on marine radio frequencies advising any vessels in the area of the incident and requesting them to assist if they could.
On arrival at the scene, search and rescue crews quickly established that all five persons on board have been evacuated safely. They were taken on board other private vessels and transported to safety at Portumna where they were met by ambulance paramedics and Coast Guard personnel. They were all found to be unharmed and not in need of medical attention.
The occupants of another passing vessel attempted to tackle the blaze with little luck. A pall of thick black smoke reached a hundred feet into the sky and could be seen for miles around, according to one eyewitness.
“I think they had just set off from Portumna and were approaching the mouth of the lake when it just went up on fire. The river and lake were very busy today so a good few boats went to help them off the boat. It went up very quickly,” he said.
It was also confirmed that there were gas cylinders on board the boat so a radio message warning of the danger was issued to rescue crews at the scene. Coast Guard watch officers also broadcast a radio message to all vessels in the vicinity of the burning boat that there were “explosive and highly flammable materials’ on board and that all craft should keep a safe distance.
Coast Guard and RNLI boat crews were also requested to help keep vessels and jetskis in the area a safe distance from the burning boat. After the blaze was brought under the boat was towed from the navigation channel into shallow waters at Carrigahorig and the operation was stood down.
Aoife Kennedy, Deputy Launching Authority at Lough Derg RNLI, advises water users to ‘always be alert to the dangers of fire on a boat and always carry a mean of communication so that you can call the emergency services for help’.