BY JACKIE KEOGH
IN a bizarre irony, a multi-casualty emergency exercise had been planned for Eastern Hole bay in Baltimore on Friday last.
‘It is bizarre that we had planned a combined emergency services exercise in that area and that a tragedy happened a couple of days beforehand,’ said John Kearney, a founding member of the West Cork Underwater Search and Rescue unit.
Those due to take part in Friday’s multi-casualty exercise were the Underwater Search unit, Baltimore Lifeboat and the inshore boat, Toe Head Glandore Coast Guard, the emergency helicopter rescue service, West Cork Rapid Response, the National Ambulance Service and the Civil Defence – all of the groups that are actively involved in the search for the missing man Barry Davis Ryan of Lackahane in the Parish of Rath, near Baltimore.
In real time, Kieran Cotter confirmed that from the time he and his crew on board the Baltimore Lifeboat received the ‘Mayday’ call, they were on the scene of this tragic accident in just over ten minutes.
The response time was excellent, but it is, as Kieran said, possible to drown in just two minutes. Members of the crew carried out CPR but were unable to save the lives of the young couple that had met while doing summer work in Penney’s.
The inaccessibility of the location – at the top of a narrow, mile-long road, barely wide enough for a single car – would, and indeed did, make a good testing ground for the emergency services.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, it was clear that anything that could be done was being done. In fact, a garda presence at the foot of the hill gave the shoreline and the area around the Beacon a kind of hallowed feeling – which is right and proper given the immensity of the tragedy that had taken place.
It meant that there would be no media ‘circus’ in the immediate vicinity, and that the emergency services could co-ordinate the sea and shoreline search with the gravitas it deserved.