Irish Coast Guard saved more than 400 lives in 2016

Acting director pays tribute to Caitríona Lucas who ‘embodied the volunteer ethos’

Coast Guard volunteer Catríona Lucas, who died during a rescue mission off the coast of Co Clare this year

Coast Guard volunteer Catríona Lucas, who died during a rescue mission off the coast of Co Clare this year

 

There was a marked increase in the number of lives saved by the Irish Coast Guard in 2016, with 405 people rescued from perilous situations, official statistics show.

This represents over one third more lives saved than in 2015, when 290 critical rescue missions were completed. An increase in callouts for kayaking and surfing incidents appears to account for some of the extra rescues, according to an end-of-year statement from the Coast Guard.

The overall number of incidents dealt with by its members was down slightly to around 2,500 in 2016 after reaching a peak of nearly 2,700 in 2015.

Coast Guard helicopters completed 886 missions in 2016 following a landmark year in 2015 when over 1,000 missions were completed for the first time since the establishment of the service in 1991.

A total of 45 bodies were recovered following drowning incidents in 2016. The Coast Guard paid special tribute to Caitríona Lucas who died while participating in a search off the coast of Co Clare in September.

Ms Lucas was the first volunteer member to die while on operational service.

The organisation’s acting director Eugene Clonan thanked all staff and volunteers for their efforts over the past year and expressed his condolences to the family of Ms Lucas, who he said “embodied the volunteer ethos”.

Well over half of all people who required assistance in 2016 were not wearing life jackets, a trend the Coast Guard is actively seeking to address with its ‘Stay Afloat – Stay in Contact’ campaign.

Almost 90 false alerts were sent from out-of-commission locator beacons which had not been properly disposed of by owners, some of which resulted in unnecessary callouts. The Coast Guard has appealed to beacon owners to fully decommission all such beacons before disposal.

The service’s helicopters also transferred 70 patients from offshore islands or to the UK and assisted the HSE and National Ambulance Service on 258 occasions this year.