Community stunned by death of Caitriona Lucas, the first Coastguard member to die on duty

Community stunned by death of Caitriona Lucas, the first Coastguard member to die on duty
Caitriona Lucas

Update at 11.30pm: A search and rescue volunteer has died trying to recover the body of a missing man in Co Clare.

Caitriona Lucas, of Doolin Coast Guard in Co Clare, was on a rigid inflatable with two colleagues when it capsized near cliffs in heavy Atlantic swell.

The mother-of-two had gone to sea with two colleagues in testing conditions off Kilkee in an attempt to recover the body of teacher David McMahon, from Lissycasey, Co Clare who went missing on Friday.

She is the first member of the Irish Coast Guard to die on duty.

It is understood a mayday was sent after the crew got into difficulty and the boat they were in flipped over at about 1pm.

Ms Lucas was airlifted unconscious from the water and repeated but unsuccessful attempts were made to resuscitate her.

Caitriona Lucas, understood to be aged in her 40s, lived in Liscannor with her husband Bernard, who was also involved in Doolin Coast Guard.

Originally from Ballyvaughan in Clare, she worked as a librarian with the County Council and she also trained her dogs with the Search And Rescue Dog Association.

Two other crew were rescued in the incident at the cliffs.

Jenny Carraway, aged in her 50s, from Kilkee and a member of the local Coast Guard unit, was said to be in a stable condition after being taken from the water.

James Lucy, the coxswain, also from Kilkee, was rescued more than four hours after the capsize.

He had scrambled on to rocks beside a cave at the bottom of cliffs but the spot was inaccessible from both air due to the gusting wind, heavy seas and overhanging rocks.

The rigid inflatable which capsized was also being thrown against the cliffs and blocked access by rescue teams from the sea.

A rescue crew abseiled about 100 feet down the cliff to reach the volunteer.

Community stunned by death of Caitriona Lucas, the first Coastguard member to die on duty

He was brought to safety by a Coast Guard helicopter winchman after teams moved him to a safe extraction point and was said to be in a stable condition but exhausted and badly shaken.

Manuel Di Lucia, a founding member of the former Kilkee Marine Rescue which later became the Coast Guard unit, expressed how the trauma of the tragedy would hit local coastal communities.

"This will have a devastating impact on the whole community here locally," he said.

"These people have been carrying out these operations for the last years, the coxswain was a former member of the marine rescue. It's very tragic for the whole area.

"There's a lot to be learnt from this incident."

Members of Lissycasey GAA club, who had been out on the shorelines for the last three days searching for their friend Mr McMahon, extended their condolences to the search and rescue teams.

The 33-year-old married man had trained with his teammates the night before he went missing.

Caitriona Lucas
Caitriona Lucas

Update at 9.30pm: The Irish Coastguard has named the crew member who died off the Co Clare coast today as Caitriona Lucas.

Ms Lucas died when the Irish Coast Guard Rib from Kilkee capsized while searching for a missing man.

The Irish Coast guard has extended its condolences to Ms Lucas's family.

A RIB from Kilkee Coast Guard Unit, is believed to have capsized and the three occupants (two female and one male) entered the water.

Valentia Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Centre immediately launched a major Search and Rescue operation. The two females were located and recovered from the water.

Caitriona Lucas
Caitriona Lucas

Both were taken to hospital where Ms Lucas was pronounced dead.

The third casualty, a male, was recovered from a nearby cave area, at around 5.30pm by a Coast Guard helicopter following an extensive and complex operation.

The Coast Guard extends sincere condolences to Lucas family and all the volunteer members of the Doolin and Kilkee units.

The Coast Guard also wishes to thank all the other organisations that participated in today’s search.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has spoken of his great sadness on hearing of the death of Caitriona Lucas, a member of the Irish Coast Guard during an operation off the Co. Clare coast this afternoon.

The Taoiseach said, “I was greatly saddened to hear the tragic news from Kilkee today. The heroic work and selflessness of the Irish Coast Guard is well known around our coastline.

"To learn of the death of Caitriona, and of injury to her colleagues brings home the real dangers our rescue personnel face and this awful news casts a dark shadow over people all over the island."

"I want to convey my deepest sympathy to Caitriona's family, her husband Bernard, also a Coast Guard volunteer, and to the wider Coast Guard family.

"I hope the other members of the team make a full and speedy recovery. Our prayers and thoughts are with them all at this difficult time.”

Community stunned by death of Caitriona Lucas, the first Coastguard member to die on duty

Update 6pm: Rescue services have now located the third person - a man - from the water off the Kilkee coast in Co. Clare.

The coxswain was airlifted from beneath the cliffs at about 5.30pm.

It is understood he was taken to University Hospital Limerick.

Manuel Di Lucia, a founding member of the former Kilkee Marine Rescue, expressed the impact of the tragedy on the coastal community.

"This will have a devastating impact on the whole community here locally," he said.

"These people have been carrying out these operations for the last three years, the coxswain was a former member of the marine rescue. It's very tragic for the whole area.

"There's a lot to be learnt from this incident."

Doolin Coast Guard, the RNLI and the Lahinch Surf Rescue Team and divers were all involved in the final rescue.

Pat Breen, TD for Clare and a junior minister, expressed his condolences following the tragedy.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the coastguard crew and their families who were involved in this dreadful incident this afternoon in Kilkee," he said.

Update 5.40pm: It has been confirmed that a woman on a Coast Guard search operation has died.

Community stunned by death of Caitriona Lucas, the first Coastguard member to die on duty

The rescue worker was with two colleagues on the third day of attempts to find a missing man off the Co Clare coast.

A spokesman for the Irish Coast Guard said the crew - two women and a man from the Kilkee unit - were thrown from the rigid inflatable in a heavy swell as they scoured cliffs and the shoreline near the town.

The dead woman was airlifted from the water unconscious and was transferred to University Hospital Limerick where she was pronounced dead.

Community stunned by death of Caitriona Lucas, the first Coastguard member to die on duty

A second woman was also taken from the water and she is believed to be in a stable condition.

The man on the crew, the coxswain of the unit, was found on rocks near where the Kilkee Coast Guard boat capsized but rescue teams were unable to reach him by helicopter or by boat due to overhanging cliffs and the heavy seas.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport said efforts were made to reach him.

It is understood rescue teams were attempting to remove a boat blocking access to the cliffs and others were attempting to use ropes to come down the cliffs.

Community stunned by death of Caitriona Lucas, the first Coastguard member to die on duty

Earlier: A major rescue operation is underway in Co Clare after a Coast Guard boat capsized during a search operation this afternoon.

It is has been reported that one male member of the Coast Guard team is being treated at the scene, while another, a woman, has been airlifted to University Hospital Limerick.

Community stunned by death of Caitriona Lucas, the first Coastguard member to die on duty

Efforts to recover another casualty are continuing. The third man is said to be on a ledge and rescue efforts are underway to retrieve the individual.

The Coast Guard volunteers had been involved in the search for a man who has been missing since Friday.

It is believed they were thrown into the sea at around 1pm.

Community stunned by death of Caitriona Lucas, the first Coastguard member to die on duty

The Doolin unit of the Coast Guard; Kilrush RNLI lifeboat and Kilkee Fire and Rescue Service are involved in the operation.

The Shannon based search and rescue helicopter Rescue 115 has recovered one casualty while a second helicopter is on its way to the scene.

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