False alarm on Lough Swilly was ‘well intentioned’

Members of the public have been encouraged to call emergency services if they believe someone in the water is in distress, following a ‘well-intentioned’ false alarm at the weekend.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 10:50 am
Lough Swilly RNLI responded to the incident.

Members of the public have been encouraged to call emergency services if they believe someone in the water is in distress, following a ‘well-intentioned’ false alarm at the weekend.

Malin Head Coast Guard Radio station tasked Lough Swilly RNLI and the Sligo 118 coastguard helicopter to Lough Swilly on Sunday evening.

It followed ‘numerous reports’ of people in difficulty off Buncrana pier.

Lough Swilly RNLI PRO Joe Joyce told the Journal they were tasked at 7.25pm and launched both lifeboats. He told how a ‘number of people’ had called in reports of people in possible difficulty.

“It was coming up to dusk and there were some swimmers in the water, who had come ashore. It was also a calm night and sound travels over water. Nobody did anything wrong by calling this in and we’d much rather be called out than not.”

The Lough Swilly RNLI crew undertook a ‘thorough search’ of the coastline and the 118 helicopter swept along both it and the lough using heat seeking cameras.

The search lasted in the region of two and a half hours and was deemed to be a ‘well-intentioned’ false alarm.

Joe encouraged anyone who believes they have seen or heard someone in difficulty in the water to call 112 or 999 and ask for the coastguard. He said the call could be a matter of life and death.

While Sunday’s incident was a false alarm, Joe said they have attended many incidents where someone believed they heard or saw someone in distress and it turned out to be correct. Once such incident involved a young man who had been in the water for a number of hours, holding on to a lobster pot, when his calls for help were heard by someone a mile away. That person called for help and ‘only for them, he wouldn’t be here today.’

“We always encourage people to call for help. Never think you are bothering us as we would always want to be called out and have a positive outcome.”

Joe told how there has been an increase in people swimming and boating during lockdown. He encouraged those doing so to ensure they have safety measures which would help if they got into difficulty. One of these for swimmers includes a swimming flotation device. They are usually brightly coloured and help emergency services see the person in difficulty.

VHF radios are also beneficial for those in boats, especially kayakers, as mobile phones can get wet and coverage can be unreliable. The radio signal can also be tracked by services such as the RNLI during a search.