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Coast Guard review into paddleboard rescue 'should be made public'


Coast Guard stock picture

Coast Guard stock picture

Coast Guard stock picture

The Coast Guard is reviewing the rescue of two young women who survived 15 hours at sea on paddleboards after they were swept across Galway Bay.

Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly has called for the findings of the review to be made public, with recommendations for future rescues.

Cousins Sara Feeney (23) and Ellen Glynn (17) were clinging to crab floats south of the Aran islands when they were found by fishermen Patrick and Morgan Oliver on August 13.

The Valentia Marine Rescue Sub-Centre had launched a major search operation just after 10pm the previous night after the pair failed to return from a short paddle on the air-filled boards off Furbo beach, some 12km west of Galway.

Three Coast Guard helicopters from Shannon, Sligo and Waterford, two RNLI lifeboats from Aran and Galway, the Doolin and Costello Bay Coast Guard units, Civil Defence and a number of local fishing vessels and leisure craft combed Galway Bay through the night and into the morning.

The two women described how vessels and helicopters appeared to be close to them during the night, and how they had begun to feel no one was looking for them after first light when they were close to the Cliffs of Moher.

The Olivers joined the search on Thursday morning, and headed straight for the Aran islands at the mouth of the bay, guessing this was the most likely location in a north-easterly wind.

The two women, who had lashed their boards together and were wearing buoyancy aids but no wetsuits, had been carried 17 nautical miles from their original location.

The Coast Guard confirmed a review into the incident was "ongoing", and was "in common with all Coast Guard search and rescue interventions".

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board is not conducting an inquiry.

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However, Ms Connolly said while such a review by the Coast Guard was "welcome as a first step", it should be conducted "reasonably quickly".

"I also believe that findings and recommendations should be made public so that lessons can be learned," she added.

She paid tribute to the Oliver family, originally from the Claddagh, for their response, and to all those who had participated in the extensive search at sea.

The Coast Guard said the heat-seeking forward-looking infra-red cameras on the helicopters were working, but that "system performance is influenced by environmental and other local conditions".

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