Tuesday 12 December 2017

Review of chopper rescue after teen falls back into sea

Hook Head, Co Wexford
Hook Head, Co Wexford
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A review has been ordered of an Irish Coastguard rescue off the Wexford coast after it emerged a teen slipped and fell back into the sea as she was being hoisted up to a helicopter.

The Waterford-based Sikorsky SAR helicopter successfully rescued two 15-year-old Dublin venture scouts, a boy and a girl, after they were swept off rocks by Hook Head last Sunday.

However, it has emerged that, during the rescue mission in horrific weather conditions, the teenage girl slipped from the grasp of the helicopter winchman back into the sea.

Reports have varied over whether she fell 15 feet or 30 feet back into the water.

She was recovered moments later and brought to Waterford University Hospital in Ardkeen.

The Dublin girl remains in a critical condition.

Her 15-year-old friend is understood to have been discharged from hospital.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) will now conduct a preliminary review of all the circumstances surrounding the rescue.

Irish Coastguard sources indicated that the helicopter crew were operating in atrocious weather conditions at the time.

These included high winds and stormy seas.

The winchman was afraid that if he recovered just one teen from the sea, the other would drown by the time he was lowered back down from the hovering Sikorsky.

He made the decision to rescue both teens simultaneously.

The girl was already unconscious.

It is feared she may have struck her head when she was first swept off rocks by a giant wave as she walked with three friends at 2pm on Sunday.

Two teens managed to scramble back to the rocks.

They were shocked but uninjured except for cuts and bruises.

However, the 15-year-old girl and boy were swept out to sea.

The teenage boy has been hailed as a hero for helping to keep the girl's head out of the water as they awaited rescue.

As the winchman was bringing both teens up towards the helicopter, the girl slipped from his grasp and back into the sea.

She was immediately recovered and winched to safety.

Rescue officials said the winchman made the correct and extremely courageous decision to rescue both teens at the same time.

Sources indicated that, given the weather conditions, to have left one teen behind would almost certainly have cost them their life.

One official said that, given the circumstances and the obvious risk to life, the decision to rescue both teens was something every rescue crew would have attempted.

The AAIU review is described as routine.

It will involve detailed interviews with all the helicopter crew, an examination of all voice recordings as well an analysis of relevant cockpit data.

The AAIU team will examine all the data.

They will then decide what further review, if any, might be required.

It has been stressed the current review is not a formal investigation.

Irish Independent

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