Coast Guard lifejacket concerns ‘separate’ to Catriona Lucas fatality

Lucas found lying face down in the water and lifejacket not inflated during 2016 boat capsize

The Department of Transport has said safety concerns over Irish Coast Guard lifejackets is a separate issue to problems that contributed to the death of Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas more than three years ago.

Ms Lucas was killed in September 2016 off the coast of Co Clare after a rigid inflatable boat capsized during a search mission. She was found lying face down in the water and her lifejacket was not inflated. A subsequent Marine Casualty Investigation Board report into her death was critical of safety management systems.

The report said none of the three crew members who were thrown into the water had inflated their lifejackets for maximum buoyancy. “A fully inflated lifejacket can adversely affect swimming and manoeuvrability and may have been a factor in the wearers’ decisions not to inflate,” noted the report.

A spokeswoman for the department said this was “not the same issue” as the current problems identified with Coast Guard lifejackets.


It is understood the current problem relates to personnel seeking to fully inflate the lifejacket with the equipment only partially inflating.

On Friday the Irish Coast Guard announced it was withdrawing its in-shore rescue boats from service because of the reported malfunction with lifejackets.

The order means that volunteers at 23 of the service’s 44 stations that are equipped with Delta Ribs (rigid inflatable boats) and smaller D-Class boats cannot launch for rescue operations until further notice.

On Sunday, an RNLI lifeboat crew was called to assist an Irish Coast Guard unit at a water rescue incident in Co Clare. It is understood it was the first time since Friday’s nationwide suspension of Coast Guard boat operations that one of the service’s volunteer units was tasked to a water-based incident.

Search and rescue

The Killaloe unit of the Coast Guard was alerted at about 12.05am on Sunday following reports that a person had entered the water at Killaloe Bridge.

Gardaí alerted watch officers at the Irish Coast Guard's marine rescue sub-centre on Valentia Island in Co Kerry, who in turn mounted and co-ordinated a search and rescue operation.

However, despite being based just 600m from the scene Coast Guard volunteers based at Killaloe could only respond to the call-out by road.

Coast Guard volunteers assembled and commenced shoreline searches from Killaloe Bridge towards Parteen Weir while the RNLI lifeboat based at Dromineer almost 20km away was scrambled to assist.

In the meantime it was confirmed that the person had not entered the water and was found to be safe and well and all resources were stood down.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times