Lough Derg storm forces 70 rowers from boats at festival
MORE than 70 international oars people who gathered for a rowing festival in Lough Derg were forced to beach or abandon their boats after swelling winds almost led to disaster.
Five rowers were "missing" for more than five hours on Friday night, sparking fears of a tragedy.
Their boat was found by rescue workers on Crowe Island, but there was no sign of its five crew members. Gardai began checking the hotel where the visitors were staying. They were later reported safe and well in Terryglass, the lakeside village from which they had set out.
The search was finally stood down at 11.30pm, when all the participants were accounted for.
They were among a group of 90 recreational rowers from all around Europe who signed up for the annual World Rowing Tour organised by FISA, the international rowing federation.
Ireland was host to this year's tour, which started in Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim, and was to finish in Limerick.
Eleanor Hooker, a spokeswoman for the Lough Derg lifeboat service, said she had no idea how the five crew forced aground on the island got back to base in Terryglass.
The drama sparked a massive multi-agency search and rescue operation was mounted with the Killaloe unit of the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI Lough Derg lifeboat being scrambled first. Gardai and the ambulance service were alerted while units of the fire brigade from Killaloe and Scarriff were mobilised.
An Irish Coast Guard spokesman said: "We couldn't stand anyone down until we had verified that all persons were accounted for."