independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Coroner attacks 'paltry' state funds given to rescuers

Geoff Rowden disappeared while walking on Mweelrea Mountain in Co Mayo

A CORONER has hit out at the Government for the 'paltry' sum provided to a mountain rescue team that searched for four days for a missing hillwalker.

Coroner for south Mayo John O'Dwyer was speaking at the inquest of Geoff Rowden (38), from Goatstown, Dublin 14, who died on Mweelrea Mountain in Louisburg on October 29 last.

The inquest heard from Mr Rowden's widow, Anne-Marie Downes, who was the last person to speak to him. The experienced hillwalker had travelled to Mayo on Tuesday, October 29, with the intention of climbing the mountain and had left his route with his wife.

After he failed to make contact by the following morning, a large-scale search was launched, which continued until Saturday, November 2, when Mr Rowden's body was found.

He suffered a significant fall and died instantly. The inquest heard that by the Saturday, up to 150 people were involved in the search led by the Mayo Mountain Rescue Team.

Praising the efforts of the group, Mr O'Dwyer added: "I've made enquiries and in 2013 the State gave them the paltry sum of €7,000 to run the service, which is absolutely unbelievable considering the work they do."

Mr O'Dwyer pointed to the "loyalty" of mountain rescue teams who travelled from around the country along with hillwalkers to assist the search.

He said the level of volunteer work carried out by the service was unrecognised by the State and possibly taken advantage of.

'UNSATISFACTORY'

Pointing out that the Mayo Mountain Rescue Team had no base and must organise search parties over the phone while exposed to the elements, Mr O'Dwyer added: "It's unsatisfactory and unacceptable."

In a direct reference to Fine Gael TD Michael Ring, the coroner said: "There is a junior minister in Westport who I'm sure does know what you do. It's time he did something about this."

Mr Rowden was found at the bottom of a 100m high cliff with a 45 degree slope. An examination of the scene found he had impacted with the ground from 50m up the cliff.

Recording an open verdict, Mr O'Dwyer sympathised with Mr Rowden's family.

Irish Independent

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