Friday, 15 February 2008

Portrush Lifeboat - On The Rocks

The Katie Hannan went aground - (click charity gallery) - apparently on a reef in front of Rathlin Harbour and ended up on the breakwater. The curious episode took place on Tuesday 29th January but she wasn't retrieved until today, Friday 15th February.

My conversations with local people, many with long experience of the rescue services, paint a very disturbing picture, one that is likely to unfold during the course of an inquiry. No lives were lost but that may have been truly fortuitous.

The photos (click to enlarge) show the barge, Terra Marique, being towed from Rathlin Island with the Katie Hannan inside and then being tied up in the harbour in Ballycastle. It departs tomorrow for Plymouth in the south of England for a detailed examination.

Any inquiry would need to look not just at the events of that fateful day in January but also at the standards of training currently in place for lifeboat crews as well as the consequences of a much reduced catchment of folks such as fishermen who've had years and years of experience of the difficult conditions at sea along the North Antrim Coast.

I'm told that in other parts of the safety network Health and Safety regulations could well be inhibiting, directly or indirectly, the adequate training of rescue personnel. This means that these personnel will be at greater risk in treacherous settings as well as those they've gone to aid. Those who make the crucial decisions on funding and other resources may not fully appreciate the additional risks they're creating; let's hope they care.