Tuesday 12 December 2017

'We’re broken... absolutely in bits' – Husband of hero coast guard Caitríona Lucas on loss of 'best friend'

Bernard Lucas is back on call-outs with the coast guard weeks after tragedy

Caitriona Lucas (41) who died tragically in a rescue mission in Kilkee
Caitriona Lucas (41) who died tragically in a rescue mission in Kilkee
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

The husband of hero Coast Guard Caitríona Lucas has said his family are “broken” after the death of his “best friend”.

In an emotional interview with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1, Bernard Lucas spoke about some of his favourite memories with his wife.

The couple would have celebrated their 24 year anniversary last weekend.

Caitríona (41), who worked as a volunteer with the Doolin Coast Guard for over 10 years alongside her husband, died after she was plunged into the rough water alongside two of her Kilkee colleagues when their boat capsized during a search and recovery mission.

“We’re broken – absolutely in bits,” Mr Lucas said.

Speaking about the moment he found out the boat had capsized, Mr Lucas said he didn’t realise it was so serious at the time.

Caitríona’s husband Bernard carries her coffin Photo: Mark Condren
Caitríona’s husband Bernard carries her coffin Photo: Mark Condren

“We got paged to go and the text came through that there was an upturned boat in Kilkee.

“When we got to the pier in Kilkee, I was pulled aside by gardaí and informed there was an accident involving Caitríona. I wasn’t aware it was going to be to that extent, that it was that extreme.”

Caitriona Lucas (41) who died tragically in a rescue mission in Kilkee
Caitriona Lucas (41) who died tragically in a rescue mission in Kilkee

Mr Lucas said their two kids were heartbroken, but thanks to the continued support of family and friends, they are “doing good”.

Their daughter Emma, who is sitting the Leaving Cert next year, has since returned to school.

In a strange twist of fate, she was assigned a coast guard helicopter as an engineering project.

“She got her engineering project for the Leaving Cert and it is a coast guard helicopter. She is quite proud to work on that project and get it done.

“She [Caitríona] was very proud of the two kids. It was heart-breaking, but they are doing good. They have great support from family and friends.”

Mr Lucas is now back working with the Doolin Coast Guard, which he said hasn’t been easy.

“I’m back on call-outs. I have been out on two or three since Caitríona died.

“We had one recently involving a helicopter - that was tough. The last person I brought into the helicopter was Caitríona, so I found that quite traumatic,” he said.

“There are loads of great memories though. We both loved travelling. I don’t think the kids ever saw a theme park in their lives, we were always out walking. We finished the Camino Santiago last year, which we over the course of four years,” he added.

Caitríona also worked as a librarian, but Mr Lucas said she didn’t live up to the typical Librarian stereotype.

“She was the complete opposite of a librarian - nothing was a challenge to her. If she made up her mind to do something, it would be done 110pc.

“We practically live in a zoo at home because of Caitríona, we have dogs, goats and cats – everything,” he laughed.

Bernard met Caitríona when she was 17, and says that while he is heartbroken to have lost his best friend, her memory will always inspire him to be just as dedicated to his work as she was.

“She was more than my wife, she was my best friend.

“It’s her memory that keeps me going. It is her complete commitment to everything that she did, to just try do it better.”

When asked about the investigation into what happened on the day Caitríona died, Mr Lucas said he couldn’t comment until the reports are issued. 

“Until all these things are investigated, we won’t have an answer. I don’t know what happened really.”

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