Monday 27 February 2017

'Caitríona died doing what she loved, what she lived for' - Heroic volunteer was first to sign up for mission

Heroic volunteer was first to sign up for fatal rescue mission

Laura Larkin

Caitriona 'died doing what she loved' (Photo: Mark Condren)
Caitriona 'died doing what she loved' (Photo: Mark Condren)
A photo taken in 2002 shows Caitríona Lucas and her colleagues rescuing a dog from a cliff at Rehy West, Loop Head, Co Clare. Photo: Press 22

Heroic coast guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas was the first rescuer to sign up to the mission which cost her her life.

It was the third day of intensive searching in the area for missing teacher David McMahon, who was last seen on Friday along the famous Kilkee cliff walk in Co Clare.

Caitríona Lucas and her husband Bernard with their dogs
Caitríona Lucas and her husband Bernard with their dogs

On Sunday night details of the operation were posted on the internal system for Doolin members to respond to.

Mother-of-two Caitríona (41)had signed up to attend even before the text alert was sent to members advising them to check the internal system. Officer in Charge of Doolin Coast Guard, Mattie Shannon, said it was "typical" of the mother of two to be first in line.

The coast guard boat, which capsized during the search operation in Kilkee, Co Clare, lies on the rocks. Photo: Mark Condren
The coast guard boat, which capsized during the search operation in Kilkee, Co Clare, lies on the rocks. Photo: Mark Condren

Yesterday, Caitríona's husband Bernard Lucas, who is also a member of the Doolin Coast Guard, called by the station to collect her car.

According to Mr Shannon, Bernard spoke to her former colleagues and told them Caitriona had "died doing what she loved" and that helping others was "what she lived for".

The coast guard boat, which capsized during the search operation in Kilkee, Co Clare, lies on the rocks. Photo: Mark Condren
The coast guard boat, which capsized during the search operation in Kilkee, Co Clare, lies on the rocks. Photo: Mark Condren

Caitríona is survived by her two children, Emma (17) and Ben (20). Emma is due to sit her Leaving Cert this year, while oldest child Ben works in Shannon Airport.

Three separate investigations are under way into the circumstances of Caitriona's death. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Irish Coast Guard, and the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCBI) will all examine Monday's rescue mission. It is expected that drone footage of the incident will be examined as part of the investigations.

The footage will be made available this morning to investigators. On Monday, Caitríona was returning from the search in a Rigid Inflatable Rib (RIB) alongside Kilkee Coast Guard volunteers James Lucey and Jenny Carway when their boat capsized in difficult conditions. The crew alerted their colleagues that they were returning to shore at around midday and put out a mayday call soon after.

Ms Carway was the first to be rescued when she was washed out of the alcove and picked up by another boat.

Caitríona was recovered from the water by coast guard helicopter Rescue 115 shortly after 2pm. She was attended to by paramedics at the scene before being airlifted to University Hospital Limerick. She was unresponsive when she was taken from the water.

Meanwhile, members of Doolin Coast Guard were dispatched to the scene to help rescue Mr Lucey, alongside staff from Kilrush Fire Service.

The search operation for missing teacher David McMahon continued yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren
The search operation for missing teacher David McMahon continued yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren

The Kilkee man managed to stay on a ledge in a cave in the alcove, where he remained for almost two hours. "Three of us abseiled down the cliff face ... eventually we were throwing a rope in to support James just to give him support and let him know we were there," Mr Shannon said.

A rescue rope was fed through that rope which would have allowed rescuers to try and manoeuvre Mr Lucey out of the water if he was swept into the sea again. "Eventually the tide was going out ... another climber was able to get onto the shore and he ran into James and then the helicopter came and lowered the winchman," Mr Shannon said.

Volunteer Jenny Carway who survived the tragedy
Volunteer Jenny Carway who survived the tragedy

Witnesses said the helmets of those involved in the incident could be seen in the water minutes into the incident. Both Mr Lucey and Ms Carway suffered only minor injuries in the incident.

Ms Carway, who was released from hospital on Tuesday, visited Caitríona's colleagues and her family. A source said she was "devastated" by the incident.

Volunteer James Lucey who survived the tragedy
Volunteer James Lucey who survived the tragedy

Meanwhile, Mr Lucey is recovering at home with his family.

Caitríona will be laid to rest tomorrow following a requiem Mass in her local church in Liscannor. The Tricolour at all Irish Coast Guard stations and several other coastal rescue centres was flown at half mast yesterday in a show of respect for Caitríona.

Irish Independent

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