A RNLI lifeboat driven on to rocks on an island off the North's coast during a rescue attempt in raging seas has suffered serious and extensive damage of its hull, it was confirmed today.
The Katie Hannon ended up on the rocks close to the harbour on Rathlin Island – seven miles off Ballycastle, Co Antrim – after going to the rescue of a fishing boat which got into trouble on Tuesday night.
Since then the Portrush-based lifeboat has been battered by raging Atlantic storms which have prevented any salvage attempt.
The RNLI said a detailed inspection of the 56ft beached vessel had finally been carried out on Saturday.
Spokeswoman Niamh Stephenson said: “It was determined that the lifeboat has sustained serious and extensive damage over the entire length of the underside of the hull caused by two days of pounding from heavy seas and the recent severe gales.
“Despite the hull damage, large parts of the structure are intact and the vessel is not thought to be in danger of breaking up.”
The RNLI retain the hope that, once the weather improves, it may still be possible to remove the vessel from the rocks intact.
Concerns of environmental damage to the island were assuaged when all fluids, oils and fuels – including 4,000 litres of diesel – were removed from the vessel on Saturday without spillage.
Ms Stephenson said all the lifeboat’s portable equipment, including valuable electronic navigation equipment, had been carefully removed and stored ashore.
She said much consideration had been given to the best method of recovering the lifeboat in one piece and that remained the focus of the RNLI’s attention.
“It is hoped that the lifeboat can be removed intact but this may take some time to achieve on account of the weather,” she said.
A similar Severn class relief lifeboat – the Margaret Joan and Fred Nye – was due to arrive at Portrush to replace the stranded Katie Hannan and a smaller craft which had been at Portrush on temporary station.