REDUCING THE flying hours of the Waterford-based search and rescue helicopter service is a 'matter of life and death for Wexford fishermen'.
Chairman of the South and East Fish Producers Organisation, Sean Radford of Kilmore Quay ( pictured), said local trawlermen are 'absolutely horrified' by plans to effectively 'cut their ambulance service'.
'The helicopter is the ambulance service for the mariners of the area. This is literally a matter of life or death,' he said.
While he acknowledges that the helicopter service is vital if a fishing vessel capsizes or sinks, it also provides a more basic and crucial service for fishermen.
'If a fisherman has a heart attack on a boat and he is 50 miles off shore, it's critical to have the helicopter to get him to hospital,' he said. He added that frequently accidents happen on boats, and people fall overboard.
'The helicopter can be required to bring people to hospital when they cut themselves or have hypothermia. A quick response 24 hours a day is vital. Someone could die,' he said. He added that having cover from Dublin is not adequate. 'What happens if there is a call out off the Dublin coast at the same time? Is the south east ignored?' he asked. He added that the fishermen of Kilmore Quay are dismayed that the value put on their lives is so little. 'There is a sense of disbelief at the moment. No one can make sense of it at all,' he said.