Ballyglass RNLI spend 23 hours at sea for rescue of man trapped in cave
Volunteer lifeboat crew at Ballyglass RNLI spent 23-hours at sea after launching just after 6pm on Saturday (17 September) to reports of a man trapped in a cave at Downpatrick Head in county Mayo.
The man was eventually brought to safety by members of Irish Cave Rescue late on Sunday afternoon, with lifeboat crew spending the entire time at sea. The volunteer lifeboat crew had a critical role during the epic callout, keeping in constant contact with the casualty by shining a searchlight into the cave and checking the man was conscious, letting him know that help was close at hand.
It is believed the man had got into difficulty while walking near the cave with another person, before they were both swept inside it, following a strong surge in waves. A woman was rescued by paddleboarders, but the man took refuge on a high ledge well above the water and back from the mouth of the cave. The man had experience in caving and was wearing a wet suit but conditions at the time made a further rescue attempt impossible.
During the hours that followed, the RNLI were joined by the Coast Guard, Garda Divers, the Irish Cave Rescue Unit, Civil Defence and local fishermen, as well as locals from Ballycastle. While the experienced cave rescue team formulated a plan to extract the casualty, members of Ballyglass RNLI went without their sleep to keep an all-night vigil to check in with the man every half hour, by shining a light inside the cave and asking him through their loud hailer to let them know he was conscious and safe by showing a sign of movement.
Lifeboat crew took turns resting throughout the night and a relief lifeboat crew was readied to take over at moment’s notice. However, the volunteer lifeboat crew wanted to stay with the casualty to the end as they knew a rescue attempt was imminent.
The day long operation came to end when the Cliff Rescue Unit entered the cave at low tide from above and extracted him by rope. They were then able to guide the casualty to safety along the ground, where he was then met by the waiting Coast Guard helicopter and taken to hospital. He was in good spirits at the time and was able to communicate with his rescuers.
Commenting on the callout Ballyglass RNLI Coxswain Francie Gibbons said, ‘This was a long callout for the lifeboat crew, and I am so proud of them for their actions over nearly 24 hours at sea. Normally in spending such a long time away from home for a callout, you would be out searching but this was different as we had to stay in a very small area, and we could only see the casualty when we brought the lifeboat to the mouth of the cave. We knew if we left him or didn’t keep in constant contact that he might lose hope or think we had left. We couldn’t hear him, but we knew he could hear us, and that contact kept everyone going.’
‘We are delighted he was rescued and that we were able to play our part. The work carried out by the all the agencies present that day and the local community, was nothing short of incredible. It’s a callout we will remember for a long time and thankfully with a great outcome.’
RNLI media contactsFor more information, please contact Niamh Stephenson, Regional Media Manager on 0871254124 or [email protected] or Nuala McAloon, Regional Media Officer on 0876483547 or [email protected]
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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.
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