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All female Search and Rescue Helicopter crew

Tuesday, 13th August, 2013 4:39pm
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All female Search and Rescue Helicopter crew

Last Friday, August 9th, the Shannon based Search and Rescue (SAR) Helicopter (R115) flew its first missions with a female pilot and co-pilot Capt Dara Fitzpatrick and Capt Carmel Kirby.

Captain Fitzpatrick is the Chief Pilot for rescue 117 at the Waterford base and was on transfer to Shannon to build up flying hours on the new helicopter type, the Sikorski S92, which is due to replace the S61 in Waterford in mid-September. Captain Kirby is scheduled to become the Manager Flight Operations for all the helicopter SAR bases later this year.

This was a historic occasion for the Coast Guard as this was the first all-female SAR Helicopter crew and they carried out two missions on their shift, one was a cardiac case from west Cork who is recovering well in Cork University Hospital, and the other was aero-medical transfer from Cork University Hospital to Temple Street of a critical ill 5 year-old child.

Coast Guard statistics show a 45% rise in the number of incidents to 1,572 missions by the end of July this year. Coast Guard annual incidents have never been greater than 2000 in its history but this number is expected to be exceeded as early as the Autumn.

This is considered to be a result of two factors. First, the good weather this summer has seen rescues of swimmers rise by 68%, persons on the shoreline by 54%, canoes by 146%, angling craft by 44%, jet skis by 340% and sailing vessels by 40%.

The other main contributory factor has been the aeromedical service to the HSE now on trial with the Coast Guard helicopters.

Air ambulance missions are up 925% to 123. Shannon R115 has so far flown an incredible 187 missions which is an increase of 85% on this time last year. Dublin Rescue 116 at 85 missions is up 18%, Waterford R117 at 93 missions is up 41% and Sligo’s R118 at 112 missions is up 51%.

This new aeromedical service has seen a very wide range of mission profiles flown this year from cardiac emergencies, casualties inaccessible by road ambulance to RTAs.