Friday 9 December 2016

'The whole town is stunned': Tributes pour in for 'hero' coast guard who lost her life

Luke Byrne, Cian Murray and Caroline Crawford

Published 12/09/2016 | 20:40

The scene near Kilkee where an Irish Coast Guard rescue boat capsized (main) Caitriona Lucas (Inset)
The scene near Kilkee where an Irish Coast Guard rescue boat capsized (main) Caitriona Lucas (Inset)

Doolin coastguard volunteer Caitriona Lucas, who tragically died during a search and recovery mission has been remembered today for her dedication to others.

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The 41-year-old woman, who has worked as a volunteer with the Doolin Coastguard for over 10 years, died after she was plunged into the rough water alongside two of her Kilkee colleagues when their boat capsized.

The librarian, who was originally from Ballyvaughan in North Clare, had joined the Doolin coastguard in January 2006, taking part in countless rescue missions as well as recording a number of the missions.

The mother of two had been a member of the Doolin team alongside her husband Bernard Lucas.

Caitriona Lucas
Caitriona Lucas

The couple, who lived in nearby Liscannor had also been involved in the Search and Rescue Dogs Association (SARDA) and helped to train dogs to assist in search and rescue operations.

She served as the organisation’s national secretary from 2011 to 2014.

The community in the area are finding it difficult to cope with this shocking tragedy.

Manuel Dilucia, founder of the Kilkee Marine Rescue and local businessman, said:  “It’s an awful tragedy, especially considering that they were on a rescue mission. The whole town is stunned. All of West Clare is stunned. The whole area is stunned. Everybody is just standing around looking at each other. “

A man (left) is air lifted from the sea after he became trapped in a cave below the cliffs in Kilkee, Co Clare where he sheltered when his boat capsized while searching for a man missing since Friday. Credit: Press 22
A man (left) is air lifted from the sea after he became trapped in a cave below the cliffs in Kilkee, Co Clare where he sheltered when his boat capsized while searching for a man missing since Friday. Credit: Press 22

Caitriona had worked as a librarian for Clare County Council for over 16 years. 

Fianna Fáil Councillor for West Clare, Bill Chambers, praised the incredible work Lucas had been doing when tragedy struck.

He said: “She was a hero, she was trying to save a person and do her job. It can’t be described as anything other than an awful tragedy. They were trying to save another man.”

Work colleagues in the council were said to be grief stricken at her loss today. The Irish Coast Guard extended their "sincere condolences to the Lucas family and all the volunteer members of the Doolin and Kilkee units".

The scene near Kilkee where an Irish Coast Guard rescue boat capsized. Photo: Press 22
The scene near Kilkee where an Irish Coast Guard rescue boat capsized. Photo: Press 22

Caitriona was remembered by friends for her good humour and as a woman who was always available to help others.

“She was such a dedicated member of the Doolin coastguard team, she was at the heart of it all. It’s hard to believe this is happening,” said one friend.

Another remembered her for her love of keeping fit, trekking, the outdoors and travelling.

“Everyone is just in absolute shock. I can’t believe she’s gone like this,” added another.

Minister Shane Ross said that he learned with "extreme sadness" of "the loss of a brave and valiant woman engaged in the most heroic of and unselfish of duties".

"Caitriona was a member of that extraordinary group of men and women who dedicate their skills, time and passion so that others may be safe on our coastlines.

"Such remarkable courage and heroism in the service of others is rarely equalled and never surpassed. On behalf of myself and my Department I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Caitriona – a woman who made the ultimate sacrifice in her service to others.

"I would like to wish those two volunteers, who are recovering from this appalling trauma in hospital this evening, speedy and fulsome recoveries.

"And I would like to commend all the volunteers, particularly those of Kilkee and Doolin CGUs, who responded today in such a valiant and courageous manner in the most horrendous and difficult of circumstances.

"I can only applaud their bravery and empathise with their sorrow on this very, very tragic day."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has spoken of his great sadness on hearing of the death: “To learn of the death of Caitriona, and of injury to her colleagues brings home the real dangers our rescue personnel face and this awful news casts a dark shadow over people all over the island. I want to convey my deepest sympathy to Caitriona’s family, her husband Bernard, also a coast guard volunteer, and to the wider coast guard family.”

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