Belfast Telegraph

Lake rescue 'highlights failings'

Fire service staff in Lurgan where a man died after being rescued from a frozen lake are demanding better training and equipment.

Two Fire Service officers and a paramedic ended up in the water when the rescue attempt went wrong, prompting officials to launch a major investigation.

A helicopter helped haul the 51-year-old man out of Lurgan Park's lake on December 12 but he died later in hospital.

No criticism has been directed towards the staff who helped rescue the man; they have been praised for their bravery. But now sources inside the Fire Service in the Co Armagh town are demanding training and equipment to boost their efforts in water rescues.

"At the moment we are given a throw-line and a length of hose that inflates to help people in water but we have to do it from the shore," they said. "We have to wait for the search and rescue team to come from Belfast but that could take 30 minutes for an emergency in Lurgan.

"There are over 20 stretches of water in the wider Lurgan area and we think that at this stage local staff should have the training and the equipment to deal with these incidents ourselves.

"It would be better for us and better for the public. But that would require access to a small inflatable boat and wetsuits, plus training. We think it should be a priority."

They added: "At the moment when we arrive at a water incident we are faced with watching someone in difficulty, or just getting on to the water and trying our best to help them."

Earlier this month the Lurgan rescue attempt hit the headlines.

A police helicopter was used to lift the man from the water and on to ice but a boat carrying other rescue staff capsized. The two fire service officers and a paramedic ended up in the water and while two swam ashore, one also had to be rescued.

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