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Coast Guard hero Caitríona Lucas remembered as new volunteer association set up

Caitríona had offered to help out the neighbouring Irish Coast Guard Kilkee unit in a search for a missing man on the day she died

Caitriona Lucas

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

The daughter of Caitríona Lucas, who was the first Irish Coast Guard member to lose their life while on duty, has laid a wreath for her mother on the cliff top beside where she died five years ago.

Emma Lucas was taking part in a ceremony commemorating her mum ahead of the launch of the new Irish Coast Guard Volunteers Representative Association.

Past and present volunteers spoke at the event about the importance of having an independent association to represent their interests as they paid tribute to Ms Lucas who died at Kilkee in Co Clare on September 12, 2016.

The 41-year-old librarian and mother-of-two was a highly experienced volunteer with the Irish Coast Guard’s Doolin unit.

An advanced coxswain, she had offered to help out the neighbouring Irish Coast Guard Kilkee unit in a search for a missing man on the day.

She hadn’t expected to go to sea, but the unit was short a crew member. She died after the Kilkee rigid inflatable boat (Rib) capsized in a shallow surf zone. Two other crew members survived.

Her husband Bernard Lucas had previously called for the establishment of such an association to allow for volunteers to air their concerns.

The final report from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board into the incident was also critical of safety aspects of the operation.

Irish Coast Guard hero Caitriona Lucas

Mr Lucas also queried why the investigation did not address failure to find personal locator beacons and other equipment issues, including the loss of helmets by three crew and the failure of lifejackets to inflate.

A post-mortem identified a trauma to the side of Ms Lucas’s head at a point where it should have been protected by her helmet.

The new association will be chaired by John O'Mahoney and will represent the concerns of Irish Coast Guard volunteers.

It has said it is now seeking an urgent meeting with Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, and has said their concerns are to be raised at the next meeting of the Transport and Communications Committee.

"In the history of the Irish Coast Guard there has never been an independent voice to speak on behalf of the volunteers as a collective, to ensure that the well-being of volunteers from their perspective is at the heart of best practice policies," Mr O’Mahoney said.

He added: "We need to be here to offer support and help to all IRCG members both past and present, to assist in resolving any issues that they may have struggled with, and to work with IRCG Management to ensure best practice prevails so that issues do not arise, if possible, in the first place."

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