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'Caitríona was up there with the best of them': Shock at sadness at death of Coast Guard volunteer

The mother-of-two was pronounced dead shortly after being airlifted from the water.

Image: Doolin Coast Guard via Facebook

Updated 9.55pm

TRIBUTES CONTINUED TO pour in today for Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas, who died during an operation off the coast of Clare yesterday.

Lucas and two other crew members were thrown from their boat when it capsized during a search operation for a missing person.

The mother-of-two, who was a librarian, is the first ever Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die during a rescue.

Today, Fine Gael senator Martin Conway, who was a friend and neighbour of Caitríona Lucas, expressed his shock and sadness at her death.

“I am devastated at the death of Catriona, who was a dear friend and neighbour of mine. Caitriona was a wonderful and selfless person, who has done so much for so many, both in her work as part of the Doolin Coastguard unit and in her day job as a librarian in Ennistymon Library.”

There are no words that can describe the grief felt by the entire community of North Clare and I want to express my sincere sympathies to Catriona’s husband Bernard and her son Ben and daughter Emma. This is a very sad time for our community, we all stand together in our grief.

‘The best of them’

Speaking about his colleague, Mattie Shannon, the officer in charge of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, told RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke:

She just loved the coast guards, that’s what she wanted to do… it’s terrible that a young woman could lose her life like this… there are many people in the coast guard but Caitríona was up there with the best of them.

President Michael D Higgins has also written to express his condolences to the woman’s family. Her husband Bernard is also a Coast Guard volunteer with the Doolin unit.

Earlier, the RNLI flag was lowered the RNLI head office in Airside Swords to mark the death of the young librarian.

Tweet by @Niamh Stephenson Source: Niamh Stephenson/Twitter

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, said, “This is an appalling tragedy; the loss of a brave and valiant woman engaged in the most heroic of and unselfish of duties.

Such remarkable courage and heroism in the service of others is rarely equalled and never surpassed.

Inquiry

The incident will be investigated by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board. Operations manager with the Irish Coast Guard, Declan Geoghegan, said yesterday it would be “unwise to speculate at this time in terms of the cause of accident”.

Whether it was a heavy swell or a rogue wave, we’re unsure, but there will be in inquiry.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast this morning he said that the trio radioed in preparing to come home, but a few minutes later they broadcast a mayday signal.

He added that it is not known what changed in a matter of minutes.

They were thrown into water … one got trapped in a cave and the other two were picked up. Unfortunately, Caitríona passed away.

He said she was injured when thrown from the boat. The member trapped in a cave was was rescued by a winchman at around 6pm yesterday evening and found to be suffering from minor injuries.

Geoghegan said that the team had delayed going out in the morning but conditions improved. He said that there was “quite a large swell running but the swell wouldn’t have been a hindrance to that craft”.

The RIB was “quite a sturdy boat”, he added. Lucas was described as a “great outdoor person” with a “very bubbly personality” who was heavily involved in search and rescue.

Geoghegan added that she was a “valued member of the Coast Guard”.

Search and rescue is a risky operation and the safety of our crew is a priority, and that’s why we train so much and why they use the type of equipment they use.

“It’s always a risk when you’re in bad conditions searching for someone. There’s always a risk factor involved.”

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Read: ‘A brave and valiant woman’: Tributes to Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas>

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