GP questions merit of Rescue 116 call-out for ‘tip of a finger’

‘Nobody seems to want to dwell’ on resources used over minor injury, IMO conference told

Irish Coast Guard   helicopter. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

Irish Coast Guard helicopter. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.


The decision to call out the Irish Coast Guard helicopter which crashed in Co Mayo last month when responding to a relatively minor injury has been criticised by a doctor at the Irish Medical Organisation conference.

Mayo GP Ken Egan questioned why two rescue helicopters worth more than €100 million and eight expert professionals were called out “all for a tip of a finger”.

The two helicopters were responding to a callout for an injured crewman on a fishing trawler off the Co Mayo coast when the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter crashed.

The R116 was tasked with providing communications and back-up support for the Sligo-based R118.

Pilots Capt Dara Fitzpatrick and Capt Mark Duffy were the first two confirmed casualties of the crash while the search is continuing for missing Rescue 116 airmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

Crewman’s injury

Mr Egan said “nobody seems to want to dwell” on the massive resources called out to treat the crewman’s injury, a severed thumb. The callout decision was made after the skipper talked to a doctor in Cork University Hospital via the coast guard service.

Medical sources have said that if the digit had been severed completely, time would have been of the essence in reconnection and would have justified a helicopter evacuation.

However, in this case, the man had not lost his digit, and the fishing vessel could have been advised to proceed to shore, while dressing the wound to prevent infection and possible septicaemia, a medical source told The Irish Times last month.

Criticising the “indifference of the authorities” to investigating this issue, Dr Egan said “surely someone has to go back and look at why the helicopter was called out”.

He was speaking on a motion welcoming the development of helicopter emergency services staff by doctors on both sides of the Border.