Sunday 18 March 2018

Woman (53) swept off rocks into sea while out fishing with friends

Coastguard search was focused off the coast at Blackhead, Co Clare
Coastguard search was focused off the coast at Blackhead, Co Clare

Pat Flynn

A woman has died after she was swept into the sea by a rogue wave in Co Clare early Sunday.

The 53-year-old is understood to have been in the water for almost an hour before she was located by a boat crew from the Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard.

The woman, believed to be from Eastern Europe but living in Tipperary, was part of a group that had been fishing at Ballyreen south of Fanore. The area has been the scene of several tragedies in recent years.

It’s understood the woman was swept off the rocks by a wave and taken out to sea.

The alarm was raised at around 9.00am when the Irish Coast Guard received a report of a person in the water at Blackhead in Co Clare. Later it was confirmed the incident occurred further south at Ballyreen.

An ambulance crew and several Garda patrols were first to arrive at the scene while the Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard was alerted and mobilised.

A rescue boat was quickly launched however weather conditions at the time were reported to be almost too dangerous to put the boat to sea.

Conditions at the time reported to be 'close to the limit’ with winds reaching Force 6 to 7.

Coast Guard volunteers carried out a sea search while the crew of the Shannon based search and rescue helicopter, Rescue 115, undertook sweeps of the coastline. Teams were also sent to the scene by road and assisted from the shore.

The woman could be seen treading water for a time and was later seen floating on her back before her friends lost sight of her.

Members of Doolin Coast Guard located the woman and took her on board their boat. The casualty was found face down about 300m offshore and over a kilometre north of where she had fallen into the sea.

Personnel quickly administered CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) before the woman was airlifted from the boat on board the rescue helicopter.

The casualty was flown to University Hospital Galway for treatment.

A Garda spokesman said: “We got a call around 9.00am to report a woman in the water on the Fanore shore near Doolin. A woman was recovered from the water at around 10.00am. She was airlifted to University Hospital Galway where she was pronounced dead.”

Gardaí have spoken to several people who were in the area at the time but have confirmed they are treating the incident as a tragic accident.

A Coast Guard spokesman said: “Conditions were very poor and close to the limit which would have prevented us launching the boat. The first report was that there was a person in the water near Blackhead.”

“We were told later that the incident was at Ballyreen. The rescue boat located the casualty and took them on board. The crew administered CPR before the casualty was winched from the boat onto the helicopter and taken to hospital in Galway."

There have been several tragedies along the same stretch of coast in recent years.

In October 2013, a 42-year-old Latvian man drowned in the same area as yesterday’s incident.

The father-of-one had been fishing for mackerel with two friends when he was washed into the sea by a rogue wave.

In July 2009, a 42 year old French man died after he fell from the rocks while fishing at Ballyreen. That incident occurred in front of the victim's family.

In November of the same year, in an almost identical incident, a 34-year-old man fell to his death while fishing at the same spot.

That tragedy happened in front of the victim's wife, 10 year old daughter and a family friend who were later treated in hospital for shock and hypothermia.

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