THE Castletownbere Coast Guard has issued a warning to non-national fishermen who may not be familiar with West Cork waters, after a Polish man had a lucky escape last Sunday.
The fisherman got swept into the sea near the Dursey Island cable car. He had been fishing from the rocks with two friends just before the incident. He managed to get out of the water but ended up on a ledge just above the heavy swell, unable to climb up.
The alarm was raised around 11.45am, and Valentia Marine Rescue Sub Centre tasked several agencies to assist with the incident. First at the scene were members of Castletownbere Coast Guard team, soon followed by Castletownbere RNLI Lifeboat and the Shannon-based Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 115.
The rough sea conditions prevented the lifeboat from launching their inflatable Y-boat. Meanwhile, the helicopter crew determined that the man’s precarious position on a narrow ledge meant that any winching operation would result in a very high risk of him being blown into the water by the aircraft’s powerful downdraft.
In consultation with the helicopter winchman, the Coast Guard team’s officer-in-charge Martin Sullivan concluded that the best strategy was to send a climber down to the casualty. With the heavy swell and the incoming tide, time was of the essence and fast action was required.
The team proceeded to set up a climbing rig on the clifftop. Once this was done, a member of the crew descended 25m until he reached the casualty and was able to attach him to a rescue harness. The clifftop crew then hauled the two up to safety.
After an assessment with Castletownbere ambulance personnel, the casualty was transferred to Tralee General Hospital by helicopter for follow-up treatment. He was suffering from hypothermia but has since been released from hospital.
‘This was a great example of team-work,’ Mr Sullivan said. ‘My crew worked together seamlessly and carried out a very successful rescue operation. We are also very grateful for the support we received from our colleagues in the helicopter crew, the Lifeboat, and the ambulance.’
The Castletownbere Coast Guard team said they wished to highlight the fact that while this incident resulted in a successful rescue, there have been many similar accidents in the recent years.
In particular, there have been a number of drownings involving people who might be very familiar with fishing in the Baltic Sea, but who are not used to the high swells and unpredictable waves of the Atlantic Ocean. ‘When fishing from the shore, you should avoid fishing during high seas, always wear a lifejacket and stay well above the water line,’ a spokesperson from the team urged.
Last Sunday’s incident was the second time this autumn when Castletownbere Coast Guard team’s cliff rescue skills have been put to test. On September 12th, the team carried out a night rescue on Hungry Hill after three children had become separated from their family and ended up stuck on a ledge near the Mare’s Tail waterfall on the Adrigole side of the mountain.
They were roped into safety by the Coast Guard team. Kerry Mountain Rescue team also assisted by helping to escort the children down off the mountain afterwards.