Foyle Search and Rescue have been hailed for the vital service it provides as it emerged the charity had attended almost 50 per cent more incidents during 2017 than the previous year.
The Derry charity yesterday released its statistics for the past 12 months, which showed that its teams have attended 338 incidents over the year, up 45 per cent on 2016.
Over the year, 17 people were rescued directly from the river and the charity was involved in recovering the bodies of six others.
During 2017 there were also 129 instances whereby distressed people were taken away from the river’s edge or bridges. A spokesperson said: “We approached a further 186 people we thought may have needed our help, and if so were signposted to an appropriate agency for further help and guidance.”
Since the charity was founded in 1993, the spokesperson revealed, Foyle Search and Rescue (FSR) have rescued a total of 367 people directly from the river and helped in excess of 3,231 potentially suicidal people, through the direct intervention of its volunteers during duty nights and emergency call outs. Over the 24 years, it has also recovered the bodies of 135 people who lost their lives in the River Foyle.
A spokesman said: “We extend our condolences to all those families and loved ones who have lost people in the river over the past year and indeed all the other families who have lost loved ones over the years.”
FSR’s ‘Swift Water’ teams also provided support to the statutory agencies in August during the flash flooding.
The spokesman said that the charity’s work would not be possible without the generosity and backing of local people, with 85 per cent of its funding coming through donations. “We are extremely grateful and we thank the public for their continued support,” he said, adding: “We look forward to a very eventful year in 2018, during which we will be recognising our 25th year of providing an effective suicide prevention and water rescue service to our community.”
Mayor of Derry & Strabane Maolíosa McHugh said the charity had proved to be a vital service. “I have always had the highest regard for the work of Foyle Search and Rescue. They are very much a preventative and very worthwhile service, but they also provide a vital service in the recovery of remains.”
The Mayor also highlighted the importance of services for those facing a mental health crisis and said that it was for this reason that be had chosen AWARE as his Mayoral charity.
Foyle Search and Rescue was set up in 1993 in response to the number of lives lost to the River Foyle. During 2017, its volunteers gave over 17,000 hours of unpaid service.