Police in Derry have confirmed that 26 people were involved in an emergency incident after a group of canoeists got into difficulty on the River Foyle near Carrigans.
A spokesman said: “Police can confirm that 26 people were involved in emergency on River Foyle this afternoon. Five were transported to hospital by helicopter, 12 were transported by ambulance and nine did not require hospital treatment.”
Speaking from the scene this afternoon, Foyle Search and Rescue Chairperson Stephen Twells said the weather had made conditions dangerous on the river.
He told the Journal: “Foyle Search and Rescue took a call alerting us to two sets of canoeists who were in difficulty in the water. Because of the weather the canoes overturned and we were called into action working with the Coastguard, Fire Service and Ambulance Service.
“A total of 26 people were in difficulty and because of the cold and the weather conditions six of these people had to be airlifted to hospital. All 26 people have now been accounted for and thankfully there are no major casualties.
“We believe all of those rescued are adults aged between 18 and their mid fifties and that all of them were part of one group.”
The Foyle Search and Rescue Chairman said the major incident highlighted the importance of agencies working together.
A PSNI spokesperson said they are also involved in the major incident: “Police are currently attending an incident, together with a number of partner agencies, following a report that a number of people were in the water on the River Foyle after their canoe had capsized. Police were alerted to the call shortly before 2pm this afternoon.A number of people were taken to hospital by helicopter for treatment as a result of the incident and the remainder are receiving treatment by Ambulance staff at Prehen Boat House.”
Local representatives were quick to praise all the agencies involved in the dramatic rescue.
Sinn Fein MLA Maeve McLaughlin said: “The rescue operation was a combined effort involving Foyle Search and Rescue, the Irish Coastguard service, Fire and Rescue Service, the Ambulance service, and the PSNI. Their swift efforts and team work in responding to this major incident are to be applauded. Hopefully all of those involved in this incident will make a full and speedy recovery.”
Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, who was at the scene, added: “It has been a cold day and the water in the river would have been freezing. Coupled with the strong current and high tide it is extremely fortunate that we did not witness a tragedy here today. I must commend the swift and brave actions of Foyle Search and Rescue, The Irish Coast Guard and all the emergency services whose efficiency and professionalism certainly saved lives.”