The Killaloe/Ballina Search and Recovery unit was established in 2001 following three local tragedies.
The unit is regularly tasked to search for missing persons on rivers and lakes while its dive team has been involved in recovering bodies following tragedies.
The 18-strong team has been left “gutted” after it turned up for training on Wednesday night to find they could not launch their boat. The 27-foot catamaran-style diving vessel was in the boat house at Killaloe marina when thieves struck in recent days.
Two 90-horsepower Honda engines, grey and silver in colour, worth €15,000 each, were stolen. Chairman and founding member Tony O’Brien believes the thieves knew what they were taking and from whom.
“The boat is well marked and clearly identifiable so whoever took these engines knew what they were taking and that they were stealing from a volunteer community group. There had to be a few people involved because these are big engines.
“As a result of this sick act, lives are being put at risk. We can be called on at anytime and we are always ready so we are gutted by this. One of our own volunteers has made his boat available to us but we need to have our own boat back in the water,” he said.
“It is also devastating for us because we now have to tell the local community who, along with our own fundraising, paid for these engines. Still though, we will bounce back from this. We have a very resilient bunch of people and a great community behind us,” Mr O’Brien said.
The local unit of the Irish Coast Guard condemned the theft and offered support to their colleagues.
Killaloe coast guard unit leader Michael Quigley said: “Taking the engines of a boat involved in such vital work as saving lives is like taking the wheels of an ambulance or fire truck.
“We had our own rescue boat stolen some years ago so we know how devastated the KBSR members must be and we have offered them any assistance we can if they need it.”
* Contact gardaí in Killaloe on 061 620540 or the Garda confidential line on 1800 666111.