Sunday 25 September 2016

'Accident waiting to happen' - Fears over lifejackets on boats to Skellig Island featured in Star Wars

Tomás Heneghan

Published 13/07/2016 | 23:28

Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael

A tourist has raised concerns over the use of lifejackets on boats bringing visitors to the popular Kerry spot, Skellig Michael.

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The man, who gave his name as PJ`from Cornwall, was speaking to RTE’s Liveline on Wednesday afternoon.

He told the show’s presenter Philip Boucher-Hayes he had recently travelled to Skellig Michael during poor weather conditions and was not given a lifejacket.

PJ said he had been travelling on the vessel to the island featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens with another nine people and a couple when the conditions caused the couple to become ill. He said he became concerned that the passengers had not been given lifejackets.

Screengrab: The Millennium Falcon approaches Skellig Michael in a scene from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Screengrab: The Millennium Falcon approaches Skellig Michael in a scene from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The famous beehive huts on Skellig Michael

He explained: “There was nothing to hold on to where we were sitting. All of us were facing out to sea.”

“The swell really got up. The thing that began to occur to me was the lack of lifejackets. You remember we’re 12 miles out in the Atlantic,” he added.

He said: “We weren’t told about any [lifejackets]…Nobody else was wearing a lifejacket on the boat…It’s one of those things you just don’t think about.”

The skipper for the boat which carried PJ on his trip then called the show to defend his position on the issue.

The skipper, Dermot told the show that lifejackets are not typically handed out to passengers until they are needed.

He explained: “You don’t hand them out all the time, only when they’re needed.”

He said buoyancy aids were used by boat operators and that he had not seen an issue arise since he began working in the area in 1994.

He also said lifejackets were inspected every three years. He added: “We have no reason to use them.”

“If the day was bad we would not go out.”

“There’s a life-raft in the back of the boat that’ll inflate if there’s a freak wave.”

However PJ, who admitted he wasn’t a regular of such trips and had more experience with cruises, said he was not reassured by Dermot’s explanations.

He said: “Peoples lives come first” and that “this is an accident waiting to happen.”

“It doesn’t matter that there hasn’t been an accident up to now,” he added.

Another caller to show who said he was a former worker with the Garda sub aqua unit said he believed lifejackets should be give out to passengers, despite Dermot’s assurances that he had never witnessed a need for them.

He told the presenter: “I’ve seen 36 foot trawlers turned upside down…I would not get on a boat in the morning without a lifejacket.”

“I know there’s costs involved…I wouldn’t go if you didn’t give me a lifejacket.”

He added: “I do understand the position not wanting to hand them out…but things do happen.”

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