Helium balloon sparks sea alert on Swilly

A helium balloon that was reflecting the sun sparked a call-out for Lough Swilly RNLI, in what was a busy day for the crew.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 4:58 pm
The balloon sparked an alert. Picture: Lough Swilly RNLI

Joe Joyce, Lough Swilly RNLI told the Journal the crew was called to three incidents on Sunday, the first of which followed a number of reports of a possible distress signal sighted around the Leenan Head area. However, it transpired to be a helium balloon, shining in the sun and the crew was stood down.

The RNLI’s two lifeboats were also tasked following a report of a person who had fallen at Leenan Head. It was initially reported that the person was unconscious and an ambulance was also tasked to the scene. The person managed to make it back to shore ‘on their own steam’ into the care of the HSE.

The the third incident involved a report of a boat aground at the back of Inishtrahull and the Shannon Class lifeboat, was diverted to the scene. There was also a report of a missing person. It was found that boat had run aground on Saturday and authorities had not been informed. The person was found on shore.

Mr Joyce said that, as lockdown eases, there are more people out swimming, on beaches and in boats. He urged anyone going to sea to have a means of communication, such as VHF radio, to let someone know where they are going and when they’ll be back and if swimming to take a float so that they’ll be visible.

He also said that anyone who is concerned about something in the water should always ring 999 or 112. Mr Joyce said that the Coastguard will assess the call and they would rather be called out to an incident that turns out to be a false alarm, than miss someone in distress.