Theft of mountain rescue equipment has put lives at risk, volunteers say

Break-in at Sligo base sees €3,500 worth of equipment stolen, including new torches


Thieves who broke into the Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team base over the weekend have put lives at risk, according to the volunteers.

Valuable equipment including new top of the range torches were stolen.

The group , one of 11 voluntary mountain rescue teams nationwide, said it was “shocked and saddened” to discover the break-in on what could potentially have been of its busiest weekends, with many climbers out on Benbulben and other local mountains over the Easter periods.

“The individuals who did this have put our lives, and the lives of potential casualties at significant risk,” said spokesman Alan Sayers.

He said thieves broke in a door at the base , near the fire station in Sligo town, some time on Friday night.

A number of jackets and backpacks were stolen but the most “devastating loss” were torches which were purchased recently, according to SLMR.

“Needless to say this impacts directly on our ability to carry out searches effectively and safely,”said Sayers, who pointed out that 28 per cent of the group’s call outs are in the dark , with bank holiday weekends always a busy period.

He said the robbery was especially sickening as the operation is largely financed through fundraising .

“Having fundraised extensively throughout 2017, with the help of a very generous populace of Sligo and Leitrim, we are now faced with a huge and urgent bill, as well as having to add more security features to our base.” said Sayers.

Gardaí in Sligo are investigating and Mr Sayers said the rescue team would be closely monitoring the second hand market including some websites, popular with the mountaineering community, in a bid to track down the lost equipment which is valued at €3,500.

Mountain rescue teams provide a 24-hour 999 service for people in difficulty in remote or mountainous environs.

The Sligo/Leitrim team comprises 25 volunteers. The incident happened less than two weeks after vehicles belonging to Galway Mountain Rescue were broken into.

Ruth Cunniffe , spokesperson for Mountain Rescue Ireland, said it was a worrying trend.

“It is self evident that those who dedicate themselves to being on call 24/7/365 to provide emergency assistance in upland and mountainous areas require both operational and organisational support”, she said.

Ms Cunniffe said that while the teams did get some support from the Department of Rural and Community Development teams, they were largely self-funding for operational matters.