Coastguard teams across the country are gearing up for one off the busiest seasons in their history and none more so than Killybegs Coast Guard.
Located in one of Ireland’s busiest ports, Killybegs Coast Guard are no exception and over the last year have been involved in some daring rescues saving lives along the rugged Donegal coast line.
All members of Killybegs Coast Guard are local volunteers who are on call 24/7, year round, to help play a vital role in keeping those drawn to our magnificent coast safe from harm.
Well-known Killybegs man, 26-year-old Shane McCrudden, has been an active member of the local coast and cliff rescue unit for several years.
Here he explains what life is like working with the rescue team and also how to keep safe this summer when enjoying the coast.
As well as being in the Coast Guard. Shane also has the honour of being the town’s current mayor, as well as holding down a full time job.
Son of Philomena and Paul, he lives overlooking Fintra beach.
Having grown up in the south west of the county he has always had an interest in volunteer work in his locality.
He has been in the reserve Gardai and also helps with various charity groups and events.
In November 2010 he, along with a group of friends, offered their time and services to the local coastguard unit established in Killybegs 25 years ago.
“Myself and five of the lads, all close friends, we all joined together. We just talked about it among ourselves and I always had a mind to join anyway. The courses you get doing with them is second to none and they are world recognised. It’s the same with the training. It is world class. It has to be, because it is OK going out into the sea in weather like this, but some days it is terrible weather,” he explains.
Shane says he is well aware of the risk he and others undertake but it is the service to help those most in need in times of crisis is what drives them to do what they do.
“You always expect to come back, you always do, but you have to have in the back of your head, at times, there is chance you might not, or you might get into difficulty. But the equipment we are supplied with is unbelievable. The boats are state-of-the-art and we are supplied with the best of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment),” he says.
The group often work in conjunction with other emergency groups, including the RNLI and Civil Defence, but safety is the key for everyone concerned when they are on a call out, be it a land, sea, or cliff rescue.
“When we go out in cold or wet weather on searches, there is no point in us going out and having to be rescued ourselves, but the training is what makes the difference.”
This year to date they have been involved in several call-outs including two very daring rescues in and around the high sea cliffs of Sliabh Liag.
Just over a week ago they assisted in the successful mission to help a stricken climber in her 70’s who got into difficulty while walking in the area. One Killybegs team assisted in locating the walker by sound while Shane and others managed to spot where the person was and called in the coastguard helicopter from Sligo to winch her to safety.
He says the most dramatic event yet was the New Year’s Day rescue last on the same cliffs where a huge effort was made to bring a fallen walker to safety after he got into difficulty when he fell almost 450 metres down the cliff side. It took almost 14 hours from call out to when they returned back to base in Killybegs. The effort involved a large number of emergency crew and local community support.
The group meet each week and practice the various techniques involved, be it climbing, or water based exercises, they always strive to keep on top their game for when they are called into action.
Shane says they enjoy a healthy response time and good numbers for each call out. On one occasion they managed to have 18 officers at their base within two minutes!
One of the most important things he say the Killybegs team bring to the wider coast guard team is expert local knowledge of the area’s coastline that can make a huge difference in a crisis situation.
He says coast guard crews around the country will face one of the busiest years in their history given the prolonged good weather this summer.
“We would just like people to be vigilant when it comes to being along the coast this summer. One of the most important things is to tell someone, roughly where and when you are going and when you expect to return. These things help narrow down where you’ll be and it’s important just to be careful and bear in mind the possible dangers before you head out.”
Shane says while not all situations they deal with have a successful outcome, and they do assist with search and recovery operations in the event of tragedies, over all the personal development gleaned from working with a tightly knit well trained crew is “second to none”.
Work is underway to build a new coastguard centre in Killybegs and it could be ready by next year. This will provide them a with a top class facility to support the top class work they carry out on a voluntary basis when called on.