Coast Guard crit­i­cised over lack of full res­cue ser­vice in Kil­kee

The Irish Times - - Home News - LORNA SIGGINS Ma­rine Cor­re­spon­dent

Ir­ish Coast Guard man­age­ment was crit­i­cised at a march in Kil­kee at the week­end over the lack of a full water-based res­cue ser­vice in the Co Clare sea­side town. The march in­volved some 45 peo­ple in­clud­ing for­mer mayor Manuel di Lu­cia and was the sec­ond in a month be­side Kil­kee’s Ir­ish Coast Guard sta­tion.

Mr di Lu­cia, founder of the orig­i­nal Kil­kee Ma­rine Res­cue Ser­vice, said it was time for Min­is­ter for Trans­port Shane Ross to in­ter­vene in a sit­u­a­tion which dated back to the takeover of the com­mu­nity ser­vice by the Ir­ish Coast Guard in 2013.

The Ir­ish Coast Guard Kil­kee unit’s ac­tiv­i­ties have been re­stricted on water since the death in Septem­ber 2016 of Doolin Coast Guard vol­un­teer Caitri­ona Lu­cas, who was as­sist­ing the Kil­kee unit in the search for a miss­ing man when its rigid in­flat­able boat (RIB) cap­sized.

Ms Lu­cas had been at sea with Kil­kee Coast Guard vol­un­teer Jenny Car­way and coxswain James Lucey for more than 2½ hours when the cap­size oc­curred. Sources close to the unit claim the Ir­ish Coast Guard was in­formed in March 2016 of a lack of qual­i­fied crew, a lack of train­ing and a lack of in­for­ma­tion on stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures.

“There were in­con­sis­ten­cies in man­age­ment, in­ad­e­quate ad­vice on use of some equip­ment, and no so­cial el­e­ment to the unit,” a source said. “This did not cause Caitri­ona Lu­cas’s death, but it did not help,” a source said, adding there had been one crit­i­cal in­ci­dent de­brief with vol­un­teers in Kil­kee af­ter her death but “no fol­low-up”.

Sources said equip­ment sim­i­lar to that used on the day of the ac­ci­dent and over which there was now a ques­tion mark was still in place at the Kil­kee sta­tion. They said seven fully qual­i­fied coxwains had left the Kil­kee unit in the last 18 months, and were crit­i­cal of the Ir­ish Coast Guard man­age­ment re­sponse to this.

The Depart­ment of Trans­port said in re­sponse there was a hard copy and elec­tronic ver­sion of the stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures avail­able in all sta­tions, in­clud­ing Kil­kee. The spokesman said it was “in­cor­rect” to state man­age­ment had not re­sponded ad­e­quately to the sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing vol­un­teers at the Kil­kee unit.

The spokesman said the depart­ment was un­able to com­ment on claims re­lat­ing to equip­ment, as the in­ci­dent is the sub­ject of an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry by the Ma­rine Ca­su­alty In­ves­ti­ga­tion Board (MCIB) and by the Health and Safety Author­ity (HSA), both of which are “on­go­ing”.

Re­port

A short in­terim MCIB re­port con­firm­ing this was pub­lished in Septem­ber .

The Kil­kee in­shore rib was de­stroyed, and a re­place­ment RIB and equip­ment val­ued at ¤100,000 was ac­quired for the unit. Last Jan­uary, the Depart­ment of Trans­port said the re­place­ment

‘‘ This did not cause Caitri­ona Lu­cas’s death, but it did not help

RIB would be “op­er­a­tional soon”, but Mr di Lu­cia says Kil­kee has spent a year with­out a full res­cue ser­vice at sea. A smaller “D-class” ves­sel has been used but can only cover a cer­tain area.

A depart­ment spokesman said train­ing was “on­go­ing” in Kil­kee, as in all Coast Guard units. “How­ever, where we note the need for ex­tra train­ing re­quire­ments as was the case in Kil­kee, due to the pe­riod of stand-down post-ac­ci­dent, it was pro­vided and is still on­go­ing,”the spokesman said.

Mr di Lu­cia has ac­knowl­edged the com­mu­nity had favoured the takeover of the ser­vice by the Ir­ish Coast Guard, as it was be­com­ing dif­fi­cult to raise funds. How­ever, ten­sions arose when some ex­ist­ing vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing the then chief coxswain, were told their ser­vices were not re­quired.

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