Report into death of Caitríona Lucas ‘flawed’, says Irish Coast Guard

Safety management system cited as factor in 2016 death of volunteer off Clare coast

Caitríona Lucas, who died during  a search operation at Kilkee, Co Clare in 2016

Caitríona Lucas, who died during a search operation at Kilkee, Co Clare in 2016

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The Irish Coast Guard called for a “substantial reappraisal” of a Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into the death of Doolin volunteer Caitríona Lucas off the north Clare coastline over two years ago.

The Irish Coast Guard said a draft report by the MCIB issued during the summer into Ms Lucas’s death on September 12th, 2016, was “flawed” and “misleading”.

Ms Lucas died when the Kilkee rigid inflatable boat (RIB ) which she was assisting with in a search for a missing man capsized in a shallow cove.

The two Kilkee crew with her were rescued, but Ms Lucas, who sustained a head injury, died in hospital. All three crew had lost their helmets, and the boat’s radio was not working.

Key findings

The final version of the MCIB report, due to be published on Friday, maintains its key findings in an earlier draft that the Irish Coast Guard does not have an effective safety management system.

The final report also calls on the Minister for Transport to review the Irish national search and rescue framework to ensure criteria for responding to recovery missions at sea – as opposed to search and rescue – is “clearly defined”.

It calls on the Irish Coast Guard to implement a comprehensive safety management system, undertake regular audits and governance reviews, and ensure all its vessels comply with statutory requirements under Merchant Shipping Acts, including crew qualifications.

The Irish Coast Guard contested the MCIB’s draft findings in a detailed response, published in the appendix of the board’s final report.

Helmets and lifejackets

Ms Lucas’s widower Bernard Lucas questions the report’s failure to refer to problems with helmets and lifejackets, the lack of an emergency position-indicating radio beacon on the RIB, and the fact that VHF radios on the RIB were not working.

Mr Lucas, a member of the Irish Coast Guard Doolin unit, also refers to “bullying and harassment” at Kilkee in the preceding years as a “contributory factor in this accident”.

He notes that morale was “very bad” in the Kilkee unit, which had lost a lot of members.

The then officer-in-charge at Kilkee has declined to respond to the claims.

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