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37 minute delay in calling emergency services during 2018 fatal kayaking incident, report finds

A woman in her 30s died in the incident on the morning of 4 November 2018.

View from Roughty Bridge, Roughty River, Co Kerry
View from Roughty Bridge, Roughty River, Co Kerry
Image: Google Street View

EMERGENCY SERVICES WEREN’T called for 37 minutes after a fatal kayaking incident in Co Kerry in 2018 due to the lack of a mobile phone at the scene, according to a report.

On the morning of 4 November 2018, five experienced kayakers set out on the Roughty River. 

A report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) outlined that the kayakers had been aware of a log obstruction about 2.5km downriver and planned to take-out just before the drop where the log was located by turning into a side channel. 

The first three kayakers turned in and beached their kayaks and waited for the remaining two to arrive.

As the fourth kayaker, a woman in her 30s, approached the side channel the kayak capsized and she went into the water.

One of the first three kayakers attempted to hold the kayak and catch the woman in the water, however, she went over the drop and was caught under the log.

The fifth kayaker arrived and beached his boat and the four kayakers attempted to pull the woman free from the log but could not do so. At this point the woman’s head was underwater.

One of the kayaker’s made their way to the road and borrowed a mobile phone to call the emergency services.

When the emergency services arrived efforts were made to move the log and after about an hour and a half it was removed and the woman was released and carried ashore.

Once ashore, the woman was attended to by a doctor from the ambulance service and pronounced dead. Her body was then taken to University Hospital Kerry. 

The MCIB report has now concluded that the group of kayakers were all adequately trained and experienced. 

It found that the woman who died had a phone, however, all the other mobile phones had been left in their cars. This resulted in a delay of about 37 minutes in calling the emergency services, it said.

Following to the delay, it took just over an hour to free the casualty from the river after the emergency services had arrived, during which time the woman’s head had been underwater, the report noted. 

The report also concluded that not all of the requirements of chapter seven of the Code of Practice for Recreational Craft had been adhered to. 

For example, a mobile phone or a very high frequency radio in a suitable watertight cover were not readily available. 

The MCIB has recommended that the requirements set out in chapter seven of the Code of Practice should be highlighted by means of a marine notice.

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