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Caitríona Lucas Facebook

'Caitríona made the ultimate sacrifice': Report into death of Coast Guard volunteer raises safety concerns

Caitríona Lucas died when the boat she was in capsized while out searching for a missing man in 2016.

A REPORT INTO the death of an Irish Coast Guard volunteer two years ago has raised concerns about safety aspects of the operation.

Caitríona Lucas died when the boat she was in capsized while out searching for a missing man on 12 September 2016.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), which today published its report into the incident, found that the Delta rigid inflatable boat (RIB) in question was “not licensed or certified in accordance with the statutory requirements for the activities in which it was engaged”.

The report notes that the RIB “appears to have been capsized by a large breaking wave striking”. The three crew members were thrown clear of the vessel and all three lost their helmets during the incident.

The crew were unable to conduct the Coast Guard post-RIB-capsize instructions due to the severity of the incident and the conditions.

The report maintains its finding from an earlier draft report that the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) does not have an effective safety management system in place.

In its response to the draft report, which is included in the final document, the IRCG said there were “many inaccuracies” and stated that not all of the relevant facts were “taken into account”. The organisation called on the MCIB to conduct a “thorough reappraisal” of the draft report.

The report recommends that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport reviews and clearly documents the criteria for tasking and launching Coast Guard boats.

‘The ultimate sacrifice’

Responding to the report, Minister Shane Ross expressed his “deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Caitríona, who lost her life so tragically, doing the volunteer work she loved”.

“Caitríona was 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.

“Caitríona made the ultimate sacrifice and her loss has been enormous. Coast Guard volunteers, in particular the direct colleagues of Caitríona in the Units at Doolin and Kilkee, were devastated at the tragic events that unfolded on that day,” Ross stated.

The minister welcomed the report’s recommendations and said he will ensure they are all implemented.

As an immediate response to this report, Ross said he has taken the following steps:

I have broadened the national SAR Framework review already underway as a response to the recent AQE Report on SAR aviation. It will now encompass the relevant recommendations arising from the MCIB report. The Review Group itself met formally on Wednesday 5 December under the independent chairmanship of Sir Alan Massey, former CEO of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in the UK.
I have instructed the IRCG to accelerate its work in developing an independently accredited ISO safety management system that will be robust and fit for purpose. This work is already underway and significant effort and investment has taken place over the last two years.
That said, I am requiring the IRCG and the Marine Survey Office to take the necessary and pragmatic steps to ensure that any issues which could impact on vessel or crew safety are addressed as a matter of urgency.

Ross also noted that as there is a separate ongoing investigation being carried out by the Health and Safety Authority, it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the detail cited in the report.

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