'about time' | 

Husband of Irish Coast Guard hero Caitriona Lucas welcomes inquest six years after her death

‘I don’t know why there was a delay this long. We welcome that a date has been finally set for it’

Caitriona Lucas

Gordon DeeganSunday World

A coroner’s inquest hearing has been confirmed into the death of Irish Coastguard volunteer and mother of two Caitriona Lucas (41) - more than six years after her death.

The confirmation by the Limerick Coroner’s Office of the inquest to take place at Kilmallock Courthouse in Co Limerick on April 12th next brings to an end a six and a half year wait by the Lucas family.

Ms Lucas lost her life during an Irish coastguard search operation at Kilkee in west Clare on September 12th 2016.

Bernard Lucas on Friday welcomed the confirmation of the inquest and commented “it’s about time”.

He said: “I welcome it because by the time the inquest is held in April it will be six years and seven months. It’s about time. I don’t know why there was a delay this long. We welcome that a date has been finally set for it.”

A native of Ballyvaughan in north Clare, librarian, Ms Lucas - whose children, Ben and Emma, were aged 20 and 18 at the time of her death -was the first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to lose their life during active service.

Ms Lucas's death also prompted two separate State Investigations.

An Advanced Coxswain with the Doolin Unit of the Irish Coast Guard, Ms Lucas was helping the neighbouring Coast Guard unit from Kilkee in the search for a missing man on Sept 12th 2016, but Ms Lucas died when the Kilkee rigid inflatable boat (RIB ) which she was assisting with in the search capsized in a shallow cove.

The two Kilkee crew with her were rescued, but Ms Lucas, who sustained a head injury, died in hospital. All three crew had lost their helmets, and the boat’s radio was not working. Ms Lucas hadn't expected to go to sea, but the unit was short a crew member.

As Ms Lucas was pronounced dead in hospital in Limerick, responsibility for her inquest is with the Limerick coroner’s office. Ms Lucas had been a member of the Doolin unit of the Irish Coastguard since 2006.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into Ms Lucas’s death concluded that the Irish Coast Guard (ICG) did not have an effective safety management system. The ICG contested the MCIB’s draft findings in a detailed response, published in the appendix of the board’s final report.

In 2020, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided that no criminal charges should be brought in relation to the tragedy after a report was forwarded to it by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

Mr Lucas has stated previously he was “very disappointed” the published MCIB report had failed to address questions over equipment his wife was wearing.

Shortly after her death in a loving tribute, Bernard described Caitriona as “caring, gentle, kind, wanted to help others, always had a warm smile and was 100% dedicated to everything she did.

"She was an animal lover. She filled the farm with cats, dogs and goats. She was extremely hardworking and very modest. She was very brave and courageous and she loved the coast guard.”

He added: “She always had the best outlook and advice on life. The love she had for life, her family, travel and helping others was immense. No problem or challenge was too big for her to overcome and she always knew what to say to other people to comfort them.”

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