Report into death of Caitríona Lucas highlights Coast Guard safety concerns

The Transport Minister says Ms Lucas "made the ultimate sacrifice and her loss has been enormous"

Report into death of Caitríona Lucas highlights Coast Guard safety concerns

Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas. Image: Facebook

A report into the tragic death of a rescue volunteer off the County Clare coast has raised concerns over the Irish Coast Guard safety procedures.

Caitríona Lucas died after the Kilkee RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) capsized in rough conditions in September 2016.

The vessel, carrying three Coast Guard personnel, was involved in a search for a missing man went it overturned.

Ms Lucas was recovered from the water, however she was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Safety

In its report, published this afternoon, the Marine Casualty Investigation Board said the boat was launched in conditions which were outside its operational limits.

It said the Coast Guard failed to give proper consideration the “necessity and effectiveness of a boat operation” and warned that there were “critical deficiencies with the boat’s communication and navigation equipment.”

It found that the RIB was not licensed or certified for the operation and did not hold the required radio station licence.

Meanwhile, the boats coxswain – or helmsman – did not hold a State operator’s licence, which is a mandatory requirement.

Caitríona Lucas’ remains are carried to the graveyard after her funeral, 15-09-2016. Image: RollingNews

Urgent issues

Following the publication this afternoon, the Transport Minister Shane Ross said he had instructed the Coast Guard to speed up the development of a “robust and fit for purpose” safety management system.

He said the safety issues highlighted in the report must be addressed “as a matter of urgency."

“Caitríona Lucas was an extraordinary woman – brave, committed, supremely generous – and her death was an appalling tragedy,” he said.

“Her life will be remembered by the actions of all those involved in Search and Rescue activities.

“I know the Irish Coast Guard, including its 900 volunteers, is committed to honouring her memory.

“We will ensure volunteer safety remains at the heart of Search and Rescue operations.”

"Ultimate sacrifice"

He expressed his deepest condolence to Ms Lucas’ family and friends – describing her as a “talented, hardworking and deeply committed member of the Doolin Coast Guard Unit.”

“She was a selfless member of a unique group of people, those men and women who dedicate themselves to the protection of others at great risk to themselves,” he said.

“Caitríona made the ultimate sacrifice and her loss has been enormous.”

He welcomed the report and pledged to ensure its recommendations are implemented in full.