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Irish coastguard's longest ever rescue mission cancelled as patient deemed stable

A CAPTAIN of a cruise liner 300 nms off the Irish coast with a sick elderly passenger on board has cancelled a request for a rescue helicopter.

The Captain of the MS Marina, a cruise liner en route to Cobh from the United States had called for an immediate "medevac" when a man in his 70's became unwell.

It was initially feared that US national suffered a stroke and that his condition was grave.

    However a second doctor on board examined the patient and determined that the patient's condition is such that he can be transferred to hospital on arrival in Cobh.

The Cruise Liner will now continue on its journey to Cobh in Cork Harbour and will be met by an ambulance on arrival in the port.

Coastguard rescue commanders had initially put a plan in place to carry out one of Ireland's longest ever rescue missions.

The cruise liner was some 800 nautical miles (1,481kms) south west of the Co Kerry coast early this morning when the alarm was raised.

Irish Coastguard officials immediately swung into action and devised a plan to send the Shannon based Rescue 117 on an epic journey to winch the man from the deck of the liner.

The modern high-tech S-92 helicopter took off early yesterday morning and headed in the direction of the ship which had turned to close the distance with the rescue helicopter.

Such was the distance of the mission that the S-92, built by US company Sikorsky and delivered in January 2012, had to refuel at an oil rig some

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90 nms (180kms) off the Kerry coast.

The Erik Raude Oil Rig is equipped to refuel helicopters and is presently being used by natural resources giant Exonmobil to search for oil and gas reserves off the coast of Ireland.

When the helicopter reached the oil rig at 11am and began to refuel a warning light lit up on the instrument panel.

A protocol dictates that the helicopter cannot continue without determining the cause of the problem.

A second helicopter, the much older S-61, Rescue 115 from Waterford, was dispatched with an engineer to the oil rig to fix the problem.

The engineer was winched on board the oil rig and was, last night examining the helicopter.

"It is just a precaution - there may be nothing wrong other than a faulty sensor but we can't go out over deep blue water when there is a problem.

"This a minor technical issue," said a rescue source.  

Rescue Commanders at the Coastguard Control centre decided that the liner would continue steaming towards the rendezvous point while engineers would try to fix the problem.

All the while an Air Corps maritime patrol a CASA CN-235, maintained watch over the scene. 

A Coastguard spokeswoman explained that the plan was for Rescue 117 to continue on her mission but only if the fault is fixed.

By sending a second aircraft, Rescue 115, to the scene this helicopter can then carry out the rescue if Rescue 117 is grounded.

This plan was then cancelled when the captain of the vessel contacted Valentia Coastguard Radio Station and informed them that they did not require a helicopter.

As of last night the liner shortened the distance to 300 nm (555.6kms) off the Irish coast.

The cruise liner is expected to arrive in Cobh in the early hours of the morning and the sick passenger will be transported to Cork University Hospital by ambulance.

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