An RNLI lifeboat crew was called to assist an Irish Coast Guard unit at a water rescue incident in Co Clare overnight, because they cannot currently launch their own rescue boats.
It is understood it was the first time since Friday’s nationwide suspension of Coast Guard boat operations that one of the service's volunteer units was tasked to a water-based emergency.
The Killaloe unit of the Coast Guard was alerted at around 12.05am today following reports that a person had entered the water at Killaloe Bridge.
Gardaí alerted watch officers at the Irish Coast Guard’s marine rescue sub-centre on Valentia Island in Kerry who in turn mounted and coordinated a search and rescue operation.
However, despite being based just 600 metres from the scene, Coast Guard volunteers based at Killaloe could only respond to the call-out by road as all stations are barred from launching their rescue craft.
Coast Guard volunteers began shoreline searches from Killaloe Bridge towards Parteen Weir while the RNLI lifeboat based at Dromineer almost 20 kilometres away was scrambled to help.
In the meantime, it was confirmed that the person had not entered the water and was found to be safe and well. All resources were stood down and returned to their stations.
The Irish Coast Guard suspended all search and rescue boat operations on Friday because of concerns over the safety of volunteers' life jackets.
The order means that volunteers at 23 of the service’s 44 stations that are equipped with Delta RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) and smaller D-Class boats, cannot launch for rescue operations until further notice.
Although not mentioned in the Coast Guard statement, the equipment referred to is known to be a Seaforce Rescue 400 personal flotation device (life-jacket) worn by volunteer crew members on boat operations. This had been confirmed earlier to Coast Guard officers-in-charge (OICs) in an email from headquarters.
The Irish Coast Guard has said it is actively managing the situation and is liaising closely with all key stakeholders and Search and Rescue (SAR) providers.
“The Coast Guard is evaluating all options and is confident of a timely resolution of the matter,” the statement concluded.