Fisherman thanks Coast Guard for life
A FISHERMAN who suffered a heart attack 400km off the coast yesterday thanked the Coast Guard and the crew of a Spanish hospital ship for saving him.
Kevin Bennetts, who is still recovering in his West Cornwall home from his heart attack, believes the Irish Coast Guard was instrumental in saving his life.
"The (Coast Guard) staff on Valentia Island made it all happen by tying the ends together.
"Fortunately it went well for me due to the consummate professionalism of all involved," he said.
On July 24, Mr Bennetts (61), from West Cornwall, was on board the English-registered trawler Ben Loyal, which he co-owns, fishing for tuna 400km south-west of Valentia in Co Kerry.
The 18m vessel was two days into its trip when Mr Bennetts began suffering severe chest pains. Having recently undertaken a first aid course, he quickly realised he was suffering from a heart attack.
The trawler's skipper contacted Falmouth Coast Guard in England but his boat was more than 160km outside the operating limits of Royal Navy rescue helicopters at Culdrose in Cornwall. The vessel was also outside the range of the nearest Irish Coast Guard helicopter.
However, a Spanish-owned hospital ship was only a short distance away and also picked up the distress call. The 'Juan de la Cosa', which accompanies the various fleets of Spanish fishing trawlers in the North Atlantic, was about 15km away and was able to divert and meet with the trawler.
Mr Bennetts was transferred by dinghy in rough seas to the floating hospital and taken into care by medics. However, it was decided that the seriously ill fisherman needed to be transferred immediately to a hospital in an operation coordinated by the Irish Coast Guard Marine Rescue Coordination Centre at Valentia Island.
The 'Juan de la Cosa' steamed northwards overnight to rendezvous with the Shannon-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter, which had flown to the limit of its capabilities to meet the ship. Mr Bennetts was airlifted to Shannon Airport then transferred by ambulance to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick.